Reporting on Judaism

A man celebrates the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, in 2005. Creative commons image by Thomas Hawk
A tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl. Image by Tomertu.

Judaism is among the world’s oldest religions, emerging in the Middle East more than 4,000 years ago. Like most world religions, it is not frozen in form but is constantly affected by the times in which its followers live.

This resource provides journalists with background information on Judaism and a brief guide to covering Jews in America. Additional international resources have been added to help users find sources about Judaism anywhere in the world.



Judaism is the oldest surviving monotheistic religion, and the faith of the Jewish people. With a history spanning more than 3,000 years, the faith came to be called Judaism after the sixth century B.C. and was centered in Jerusalem on the belief that God revealed himself through Abraham, Moses and other prophets. 

Traditional Jewish beliefs hold that each person is created equally in God’s image and is responsible for his/her actions and choices. These beliefs and others have had a powerful influence on later religious traditions such as Christianity and Islam.

The Jewish people come from many different races and nations and do not necessarily share the same cultural traits or ancestry. In that sense, Jews are considered an ethno-religious group, including those born into Judaism and converts.

Largely due to a history of severe persecution and exile, the religion has dispersed throughout the world over the last 2,000 years. Today there are about 6 million Jews in the United States, and about 14 million worldwide, which is about 0.2 percent of the world’s population.

A stylized map of the world with Jerusalem at its center. Jews accord Jerusalem as the holiest of cities. Original woodcut by Bunting
A stylized map of the world with Jerusalem at its center. Jews accord Jerusalem as the holiest of cities. Original woodcut by Bunting

Branches & groups

There are three major branches of Judaism. They divide theologically on whether they believe the Torah was written by God or written by people:

REFORM JUDAISM developed in the United States in the mid-19th century and is founded on the belief that Judaism must respond and change with the times. It was the first branch of Judaism to ordain women as rabbis and cantors and today welcomes Jews of all sexual orientations and demographics, as well as converts to Judaism. It also recognizes children of interfaith families as Jews, regardless of which parent is Jewish, so long as the child is raised as a Jew.

Reform Jews believe that the spirit of Jewish law can be adapted to the time and place, so they tend to emphasize social justice issues more than dietary laws. They are the largest branch in America and the smallest in Israel. They are represented in the U.S. by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The Religious Action Center speaks out on public issues. The Union for Reform Judaism says that the Torah was written by people but inspired by God.

Example coverage

“Same-Sex Interfaith Couples Face Roadblock to Marriage in Judaism” — January 30, 2015, Mark Oppenheimer, The New York Times

SOMERVILLE, Mass. — When Julia Spiegelman and Erina Donnelly, two teachers who met as undergraduates at Bryn Mawr, became engaged, they were looking forward to planning a wedding that included elements from both of their religions.

Ms. Spiegelman grew up attending a Reform synagogue in Andover, Mass., and Ms. Donnelly was raised a Roman Catholic.

The two women attend Jewish and Catholic services together, and they had hoped to find marriage officiants from both religions, which they did not think would be difficult. Most non-Orthodox rabbis officiate same-sex weddings, and while they could not expect to find a Catholic priest to officiate, they planned to ask a layperson from Dignity/Boston, a community of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, to take part. — Read more.

Reform Judaism Sources

ORTHODOX JUDAISM Orthodox Judaism is considered the oldest form of the religion. In general, it is characterized by a more literal and stringent adherence to Halakhah, or Jewish religious law, than other branches. But there is a spectrum of Orthodoxy, with the Haredi on the far right and the so-called Modern Orthodox on the left. The Haredi (the word is Hebrew and means “to tremble in awe before God”) are sometimes called the Hasidim or the “ultra-Orthodox,” though they consider the latter term derogatory. The Modern Orthodox movement attempts to adapt – up to a point – Halakhah to the demands of contemporary society.

Orthodox Jews typically practice strict adherence to traditional Jewish laws based on the Bible, including the kosher dietary laws that prohibit such things as eating meat and dairy products together. They are the smallest branch in America and the largest in Israel. Most U.S. Orthodox congregations are represented nationally by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, with most of its rabbis members of the Rabbinical Council of America. Orthodox tradition holds that the Torah was dictated by God to Moses, letter by letter.

Women of the Wall, who retrieved a Torah scroll from the men’s prayer section despite regulations against women reading from a Torah at the Wall, celebrate during their monthly prayer service at the Wall. Photo courtesy of Miriam Alster/Flash 90

HASIDISM is a movement within Orthodox Judaism founded by 18th-century mystics. Men wear beards, sidelocks, black hats and long coats, and are characterized by strict adherence to Jewish laws and metaphysical theology. Hasidic Jews do not often integrate into modern, mainstream society, but prefer to live in separate Hasidic communities.

The Chabad-Lubavitch movement is a branch of Hasidism that emphasizes reaching out to non-practicing Jews. It is one of the largest Hasidic groups within the Orthodox branch of Judaism. It is based in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, and its followers are students of a line of seven rabbis, the last of which was Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, who died in 1994. Outside of New York and Israel, Chabad is primarily known for the international network of “Chabad Houses” it runs in places large (Paris, Prague, Pittsburgh) and small (Big Sky, Mont.; Fairbanks, Ala.; Rogers, Ark.), where Chabad rabbis and their wives work to reconnect Jews to their faith traditions and roots. The website has a state-by-state list of Chabad houses in the U.S. Contact via website.

  • Rabbinical Council of America

    The Rabbinical Council of America is an organization of Orthodox rabbis, most of whom are Modern Orthodox. Rabbi Leonard Matanky is president. It is based in New York City.

  • Orthodox Union

    The Orthodox Union is the educational and outreach arm of Orthodox Judaism. It is generally considered a Modern Orthodox organization. Among its main concerns is helping Jews keep kosher and strengthening their traditional rituals, practices and holiday observances. It posts a page that allows users to search for Orthodox synagogues by state. Rabbi Steven Weil is senior managing director.

CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM arose out of Germany in the mid-19th century and took root in America. It is a blend of the traditional practice with the progressive, centered on the idea that Jewish law – Halakhah – is binding but must evolve to meet the times.

Conservative Jews follow a middle path between Reform and Orthodox Judaism and are the second largest branch in both America and Israel. They are represented by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly.

RECONSTRUCTIONIST JUDAISM is the newest branch of Judaism, developed in America as an offshoot of Conservative Judaism in the mid-20th century. It is built upon a more naturalistic idea of God – one who is not personal – and on the belief that Jewish law is subordinate to secular, contemporary morality.

Reconstructionism emphasizes culture and community and rejects some tenets of traditional Judaism. It is represented by the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, which calls itself the umbrella organization of progressive Jewish congregations and counts more than 100 congregations with 16,000 member households. It maintains a state-by-state directory of member congregations.

JEWISH RENEWAL is a progressive movement within Judaism that seeks to revitalize traditional Judaism by infusing it with mystical and meditative practices drawn from Hasidic Judaism and other mystical sources.

  • Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal

    Aleph: Alliance for Jewish Renewal is an umbrella organization of Jewish groups dedicated to religious renewal of Judaism. It maintains a directory of affiliate communities. The main offices are in Philadelphia.

  • Ohalah

    Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal, is associated with Aleph and is designed to link Renewal rabbis and cantors with members of the Jewish community. On its website are lists of people, synagogues and organizations committed to Jewish renewal. It is based in Las Vegas.

BLACK HEBREWS also known as Black Hebrew Israelites, African Hebrew Israelites and Hebrew Israelites, believe they are the descendants of the ancient Israelites. Black Hebrews are often not accepted by the wider Jewish community and many choose to self-identify as one of the above names as opposed to Jews. Several Black Hebrew groups were founded in the late 19th and early 20th century. These groups vary in their structure, theology and adherence to traditional Jewish practices and beliefs.

  • John L. Jackson

    John L. Jackson Jr. is the Richard Perry University Professor of Communication, Africana Studies and Anthropology in the Standing Faculty of the Annenberg School for Communication and the Standing Faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. He has researched the beliefs and practices of Black Hebrews.

Example Coverage

Should ultra-Orthodox Jews be able to decide what they’re called?

By Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
Feb. 6, 2014

(RNS) Much of the world calls them the “ultra-Orthodox.”

But a growing number within the community of strictly observant Jews are asking journalists and others to reject the term.

Some feel it suggests extremism. Groups should get to choose their own names, they argue, and what community would choose to call itself “ultra” anything?

“The term should be removed from journalistic writing because the people that it refers to find it pejorative,” said Rabbi Motti Seligson, a spokesman for Brooklyn-based Chabad, one of the largest of the groups commonly referred to as “ultra-Orthodox.”

A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City look out onto the Al-Aqsa Mosque on September 13, 2012. RNS photo by Neri Zilber
A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City look out onto the Al-Aqsa Mosque on September 13, 2012. RNS photo by Neri Zilber

It’s not just a question for observant Jews. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would like its members to be called “Latter-day Saints” but they’ve accepted the better-known “Mormon.” Some Native Americans say the Washington Redskins name is offensive and shouldn’t be used, but owner Dan Snyder isn’t swayed. Some gays and lesbians prefer the term “queer,” while some blacks prefer “African-American” and reject the once-acceptable “Negro.”

“The word has come to mean ‘beyond the norm’ and we consider ourselves the norm,” said Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, the leading umbrella organization of these fervently Orthodox Jews.

“Ultra-Orthodox” is inaccurate, he said. “We are traditional Jews who hew to the practices and attitudes that our grandfathers and grandmothers and their grandfathers and grandmothers hewed to.” He and Seligson suggest a different term: “traditional Orthodox.”

But to outsiders, Jewish or not, these Jews seem far beyond traditional.

In some sects, the men wear tall black or fur-trimmed hats, black suits and sidelocks. Women are covered in long skirts and long-sleeved tops no matter the weather, and hide their hair under wigs or scarves. Marriages are often arranged. They often do not watch television, or read secular books, and contact with the outside world is often limited. Families with seven or more children are not unusual.

And though they are sometimes referred to as the “devoutly Orthodox,” or by the Hebrew term “Haredi,” or the more slang “black hats,” the “ultra-Orthodox” label prevails.

It has served a practical purpose, said Ari Goldman, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and former religion reporter for The New York Times. “It’s a term that distinguishes part of the Orthodox community from the rest of the Orthodox community.”

Judaism divides itself into three main branches: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. The Orthodox make up the smallest branch in the U.S. — 10 percent of the 6.7 million American Jews, according to a recent Pew Research Center study – and are those who most closely follow the letter of Jewish law. Among the Orthodox, the fast-growing “ultra-Orthodox” are the most likely to live in tight-knit communities that insulate themselves from the larger world.

Goldman doesn’t see “ultra-Orthodox” as a pejorative word, though. “Ultra,” he points out, doesn’t have to be negative:  “ultra-pasteurized,” for example. But he also calls for “sensitivity” to Haredi groups — or “Haredim” — who request an alternative name for themselves.

“If it bothers them, then I think it’s worth examining,” he said. In longer pieces, he suggests, a writer could use a term they prefer, and then explain that it describes those commonly called “ultra-Orthodox,” noting that it is a label they dislike.

But in shorter pieces that require no more than a quick reference to the group, it’s harder to get around the shorthand, widely recognized “ultra-Orthodox,” Goldman added. “I would fall back on the formula because it’s something readers know.”

The New York Times, like most American news organizations, uses the word “ultra-Orthodox,” though it will also refer to “Haredi” groups and “Hasidic” communities, a subset of the Haredim. The New York-based Jewish Daily Forward, one of the foremost Jewish news organizations, also uses these terms.

Many of the Haredim do not care what others call them. 

The Shulchan Aruch, published in 1565, is the authoritative legal code for Orthodox Jews. Artist unknown
The Shulchan Aruch, published in 1565, is the authoritative legal code for Orthodox Jews. Artist unknown

They are in insulated communities focused on their spiritual lives, or they don’t think they can ever get a fair hearing from outsiders who publish stories that depict them as strange, or, in recent years, reluctant to confront the sexual offenders among them.

“The Haredi world doesn’t expect much from the world around it,” Shafran said.

But he and other Haredim accustomed to dealing with non-Haredim say it’s worth trying to replace “ultra-Orthodox,” and would like to see English speakers adopt “traditional Orthodox.”

That would distinguish them from the Orthodox who blend more into the secular world and who commonly refer to themselves as “modern Orthodox” (think former Sen. Joe Lieberman) or “centrist Orthodox.” New York’s Yeshiva University, for example, where the students tend to look like college students everywhere, except for the omnipresent yarmulkes, is inspired by a modern Orthodox philosophy.

Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at New York’s Queens College who has written extensively about the Haredim but himself falls into the modern Orthodox category, said “traditional Orthodox” poorly describes the Haredim.

“Number one, they’re not traditional.” Many customs of the Haredim developed relatively recently in the history of Judaism, he said. “They’ve invented traditions.”

He sees the initiative to change the name as driven by Chabad, which distinguishes itself among the Haredim by inviting Jews around the world to ritual meals and holiday celebrations regardless of their level of observance. That outreach was a teaching of Chabad’s beloved leader, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, who died 20 years ago. Heilman’s award-winning biography of Schneerson, “The Rebbe,” has angered many in Chabad who criticize its scholarship and consider it disrespectful to a leader who some believe is the Messiah.

“Ultra-Orthodoxy has a bad reputation in the non-Orthodox world,” a world in which Chabad is deeply embedded, said Heilman.  The word “ultra-Orthodox,” he continued, “is certainly not a good trademark for an outreach organization. They have a strong interest in getting that word out of the lexicon.”

The New York-based Jewish Telegraphic Agency is one media outlet that is willing to oblige. At the 97-year-old wire service, JTA editors have asked reporters to stop using “ultra-Orthodox” in their copy. Instead, they use “Haredi” or “Haredi Orthodox.”

“I do not accept the premise that ‘ultra’ is an inherently negative word, or that the use of the term ‘ultra-Orthodox’ has contributed to any negative impressions that some people may have about segments of the Orthodox community,” said Ami Eden, JTA’s editor-in-chief.

“That said, we believe that whenever possible we should refer to communities the way that they refer to themselves and would like to be identified by the wider world.” 


Major holidays

High holy days

Judaism’s High Holy Days are a 10-day period of prayer and atonement that starts with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ends at the close of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Throughout this observance, Jews across the denominational spectrum, including many who are nonobservant, will attend synagogue, recite ancient prayers (often in Hebrew) and fast during certain times.

A Jewish family celebrates the Passover with a Seder dinner. The evening included a reading, "Why is this night different from all other night?" from the Haggadah, and Hebrew singing. Creative commons image by Jennie Faber
A Jewish family celebrates the Passover with a Seder dinner. The evening included a reading, “Why is this night different from all other night?” from the Haggadah, and Hebrew singing. Creative commons image by Jennie Faber


Passover, celebrated in late March or early April, commemorates the freeing of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses’ leadership. 

Families typically observe Passover with a meal called a seder, in which the story of the Exodus is retold. 


Hanukkah, also called the Jewish Festival of Lights, lasts for eight days and celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians in the second century B.C. 

Hanukkah usually falls in early or mid-December. 

Other holidays

Most congregations also observe Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, in March or April.

According to the 2000-2001 National Jewish Population Survey, most Jews observe major religious holidays, with 77 percent taking part in Passover seders, 72 percent lighting Hanukkah candles and 59 percent fasting on Yom Kippur.

Example Coverage

“Tu B’Shevat 2015: What To Know About Jewish Holiday Marking Spring And The New Year For Trees” — February 3, 2015, Elizabeth Whitman, International Business Times

Sundown Tuesday marks the 15th of Shevat in the Jewish calendar, the time when winter begins to fade and fruit trees begin a new cycle of production. It’s a festive occasion, if a lesser known one, with wine, cakes and cookies and a candle-lit atmosphere, and is sometimes referred to as the Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, for trees.

The term Tu B’Shevat is Hebrew. Tu is the word for fifteen, Shevat is the name of the month. The day is also referred to as Jewish Arbor Day. Tu B’Shevat is passed by eating fruit native to the Holy Land, like olives, grapes, pomegranates and dates, as well as saying blessings and drinking wine.  The day has a long history with a host of customs dating back to the time of the Temple. — Read more.

Thanksgiving and Hanukkah converge on “Thanksgivukkah” for the first time since 1888

By Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
Oct. 29, 2013

(RNS) It last happened in 1888 and, according to one calculation, won’t happen again for another 77,798 years: the convergence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

This year, Nov. 28 is Thanksgiving and the first full day of the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which begins at sundown the previous night.

For many Jewish Americans, this is no trivial convergence, but a once-in-an-eternity opportunity to simultaneously celebrate two favorite holidays, one quintessentially American, the other quintessentially Jewish.

Earlier this year, when the rarity of the synergy began to dawn on American Jews, they began concocting “Thanksgivukkah” mash-ups.

– 9-year-old Asher Weintraub of Brooklyn, N.Y., invented a “menurky,” a turkey-shaped menorah — or Hanukkah candelabra – and has sold more than 1,500 of them.

– Jewish cooks have created recipes for everything from pumpkin latkes (Hanukkah’s signature potato pancake) to turkey brined in Manischewitz (the syrupy kosher wine Jewish Americans love to make fun of but drink anyway.)

– Rabbi David Paskin of Norwood, Mass., co-wrote “The Ballad of Thanksgivukkah,” which manages to rhyme “latkes” with “religious minorities.”

“It’s fun, and let me go on record on saying that ‘fun’ is a good thing,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the congregational arm of Reform Judaism in North America, said of the hybrid holiday.

A turkey-shaped Menorah, dubbed a "Menurkey," is surrounded by gelt and dreidls at a 2013 Thanksgivukkah celebration. Creative commons image by Beowabbit
A turkey-shaped Menorah, dubbed a “Menurkey,” is surrounded by gelt and dreidls at a 2013 Thanksgivukkah celebration. Creative commons image by Beowabbit

Jacobs isn’t the only Jewish American to note that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving align not just in time, but thematically. They both celebrate religious liberty: The Pilgrims sought religious freedom in the New World, and the ancient Jews’ triumphed over Greek oppressors who had banned the practice of Judaism.

“To me, that is such a beautiful and powerful linkage of the two holidays and I hope we get to celebrate that as well as cranberries on our latkes,” Jacobs said.

Or, as Rabbi Tzvi Freeman recently wrote on the website

Thanksgiving is “a narrative about an arduous journey to escape religious persecution for freedom in a new land, the establishment of a democratic charter and the sense of Divine providence that carried those refugees through their plight.”

“That’s Chanukah, as well,” Freeman continued. “A narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche of how we fought back against religious oppression in our own land, earned our freedom and thanked G‑d for the miracles.”

The miracle of Hanukkah is set in the 2nd century B.C., when a small band of Jews, the Maccabees, triumphed over the forces of King Antiochus IV.

As the Maccabees rededicated the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem, a small quantity of oil, enough to last for only one day, miraculously burned for eight, which is why Jews light the candles on the menorah for eight nights.

The quirk of Thanksgivukkah is that the Hebrew calendar, which follows the sun and the moon, and the Gregorian calendar, where Thanksgiving sits on the fourth Thursday of November, has aligned this year so that the two holidays are on the same day for the first time since 1888, 25 years after President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a holiday.

As for the long stretch before this will happen again, credit for the calculation goes to Jewish American physicist Jonathan Mizrahi, who explained in a blogpost in January that the Jewish and Gregorian calendars are drifting apart in such a way as to separate Thanksgiving and Hanukkah for more than 70 millennia. (Others who have also done the math note that the first night of Hanukkah — remember, the holiday begins at sundown — will converge with Thanksgiving as early as 2070.)

For many Jews, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah are a much better fit than the holiday Hanukkah often coincides with: Christmas. The somewhat tongue-in-cheek term “Chrismukkah,” a celebration that invokes both traditions, can be fun for college roommates of different faiths or Jewish-Christian families.

But for Jews who feel that the Christmas season overwhelms Hanukkah, or even that the relatively minor holiday of Hanukkah gets over-hyped to compete with Christmas, the idea of a Christmas-Hanukkah hybrid doesn’t always sit well.

But Thanksgivukkah? It’s not going to outlive Chrismukkah, but while it’s here, Jewish Americans are going to make the most of it.

The term was actually trademarked, by Dana Gitell of Boston, who thought it up last year as she drove to her marketing job at an elderly care agency, and began brainstorming ways Thanksgiving and Hanukkah could dovetail.

“There are so many interesting and playful cultural juxtapositions that come to mind,” she said. With her sister-in-law, Deborah Gitell of Los Angeles, she created aThanksgivukkah Facebook page, printed T-shirts and enlisted artist Kim DeMarco to draw a “Happy Thanksgivukkah” poster, a spoof on “American Gothic” that features a Hasidic man as the farmer who holds a menorah instead of a pitchfork.

In keeping with Thanksgiving’s emphasis on thankfulness, and the Jewish requirement to give “tzedakeh,” Hebrew for charity, 10 percent of the profits from the Thanksgivukkah wares will go to MAZON, a Jewish anti-hunger group.

The sisters-in-law are also throwing a giant Thanksgivukkah party in Los Angeles on Nov. 29.

But not everyone loves Thanksgivukkah, according to Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, the self-described the “pope of basic cable.”

“How dare you, Hanukkah!” he mock-protested.

“Pretty soon school kids will think Thanksgiving started when the Wampanoags sat down with the Maccabees and the yams lasted for eight nights.” 



Torah is the name for the first five books of the Hebrew Bible — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. 

Jews also commonly refer to the entire Hebrew Bible as the Torah. (Tanakh is the technical name for the Hebrew Bible, but even Jews don’t use the term frequently.) The Hebrew Bible has the same content as the Christian Old Testament, but it numbers and arranges some of the books differently. 

There are 24 books in the Hebrew Bible, arranged in three sections: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The Old Testament splits some books into two, so that there are 39 books, and changes the order. Different translations of the Torah are preferred by different groups within Judaism. 

It is believed that God appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai to reveal his laws in the form of the written and oral Torah, which contains 613 commandments.

The Talmud is a collection of ancient rabbinic commentary that elaborates on how to follow the rules set out in the Torah. It was written from the third to fifth centuries. Orthodox Jews consider it as important as the Hebrew Bible.

Midrash refers to explanations and stories about the Torah written during the first millennium. It suggests interpretations and fills in the gaps between the details and stories laid out in the Torah.

  • “The Tanakh”

    Read the full text of the Jewish scripture the Tanakh, posted by Jewish Virtual Library.

Example Coverage

“King’s Torah splits Israel’s religious and secular Jews” July 19, 2011, Yolande Knell, BBC

Hundreds of right-wing Jews have taken part in demonstrations outside Israel’s Supreme Court over the brief detention of two prominent rabbis in the last few weeks.

There were clashes with police on horseback on the nearby Jerusalem streets and several arrests were made.

Rabbis Dov Lior and Yacob Yousef had endorsed a highly controversial book, the King’s Torah – written by two lesser-known settler rabbis. It attempts to justify killing non-Jews, including those not involved in violence, under certain circumstances. — Read more.

This Memorial Day, a new prayer book for Jewish soldiers and sailors

By Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
May 21, 2014

(RNS) Jewish soldiers and sailors will read from a new prayer book this Memorial Day, one that aims to satisfy Jews across the spectrum of Jewish practice — a feat its predecessor did not achieve.

To show off its broad appeal, the new camouflage-covered prayer book will be inaugurated during services this weekend in three New York City synagogues representing the three largest branches of Judaism: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.

“We have done some historical research, and there has never been a time that three such disparate synagogues have used the same prayer book,” said Rabbi Harold L. Robinson, a retired rear admiral who is director of the Jewish Welfare Board’s Jewish Chaplains Council.

The Army’s 29 Jewish military chaplains have often preferred their particular tradition’s prayer book to any other’s. At the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany, Robinson peeked into the chapel storeroom and found copies of every movement’s prayer books going back a generation – proof to him of the need for a new prayerbook.

“We wanted a book that was small enough for them to own personally, and complete enough so that rabbis of every perspective would use it,” Robinson said.

"Siddur: Prayer Book for Jewish Personnel in the Armed Forces of the United States" has an initial circulation of 11,000 copies. RNS photo courtesy of JCC Association
“Siddur: Prayer Book for Jewish Personnel in the Armed Forces of the United States” had an initial circulation of 11,000 copies. RNS photo courtesy of JCC Association

In Hebrew and English, the new pocket-sized, 650-page prayer book, known as a “siddur” in Hebrew, includes prayers for daily use, for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) and for holidays. The chaplains council paid for and published it, charging a team of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis to include language from each movement’s standard prayer books.

The aim was an inclusive book, but one that would not offend anyone either.

Not all Jewish military chaplains will turn to  it all the time, said Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin, an Orthodox rabbi with the 395th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Middletown, Conn.

“It’s not like this is the M16 the military issues, and that’s what you have to use,” said Rocklin, who served on the committee that edited the siddur. “The idea is to work out the best prayer book we can. No one is going to be overjoyed, but almost everybody will be able to use it.”

For the Orthodox, for example, whose observance strictly follows Jewish Scriptures and oral traditions, the new prayer book includes a more complete morning service and a full grace after meals, as opposed to the abbreviated versions found in the last siddur.

On the other side of the Jewish spectrum, the Reform movement, from which Robinson hails, wanted a siddur using egalitarian language. The Reform and Conservative movements have long ordained women rabbis; the Orthodox movement historically has not.

In Reform and Conservative synagogues, there is frequent acknowledgment not only of the Hebrew Bible’s patriarchs — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — but of the matriarchs or “imahot” — Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

The prayer book also includes two things found in most Jewish prayer books: a prayer for the United States and a prayer for Israel.

A prayer for another nation in a prayer book for American soldiers and sailors?

The old siddur had one too. “If somebody chooses to wear the uniform of the United States of America, and to swear loyalty to the United States of America, and to risk their life for the United States of America, there is no dual loyalty issue,” Robinson said.

The siddur, six years in the making, will have a first run of 11,000 copies. It is free to any chaplain in the military or Department of Veterans Affairs who requests it. 

Demographic Information


Example Coverage

‘Israeliness’ may be the answer for secular American Jews

Miri Belsky
Oct. 21, 2013

(RNS) The recent Pew survey of American Jews caused a fluster in the organized Jewish community.

The survey raises a number of questions about the efficacy of Jewish institutions, leaving professionals and donors alike in a position of uncertainty regarding their investments in the Jewish future. But while traditional American Jewish organizations regroup, a growing movement in the community remains largely overlooked.

In major metro areas across the United States such as Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Boston, Israeli-American organizations are popping up and growing in popularity. Programs centered on Israeli culture and Jewish identity for families, young adults and children have swelling appeal.

Participation in these Israeli-American organizations is increasing rapidly, and not only among Israeli expats and their children. American Jews join Israeli programs related to Hebrew language, Jewish education, and creating connectedness to Israel through the arts, music, literature, and tradition.

The American way of practicing Judaism is largely based on attending synagogues and affiliating with religious congregations across the denominations. What it does not offer are substantial alternatives for Jewish involvement in a secular way. The phenomenon of growing Israeli communal life in the United States offers a new model for American secular Jews to express their Judaism without needing to belong to a synagogue or religious institution.

In Los Angeles, the Israeli American Council reached over 50,000 members of the Israeli-American community last year with its Israeli-tailored programming. The organization’s flagship event, the Celebrate Israel festival — now the largest Jewish festival in North America — turned out about 15,000 people, half Israeli-Americans and half American Jews.

Other Israeli-style holiday festivals with a focus on family activities, Israeli performances, and Israeli or Jewish customs attract thousands and reflect a similar demographic split.

The trend continues through the young professional program BINA, targeting the age group of American Jews who are least connected to Judaism according to the Pew report. The IAC’s success, in fact, led to its recent expansion across the United States.

Jewish Population in United StatesAmerican Jews in New York have also recently been showing a growing interest in Israeli educational programs, such as “Israeliness” at the 92nd Street Y, among others.

Upon a closer look, perhaps these developing programs, which are almost entirely secular in nature, are the new avenue for secular American Jews to connect to their Jewish identity.

The Pew results revealed that 70 percent of American Jews feel very attached or somewhat attached to Israel, and more than 60 percent believe Judaism is about culture, ancestry and identity. What better environment to cultivate those feelings and transform them into strong connectedness to one’s Jewish roots than among secular Israelis?

Although Israelis living in the United States may have left the Jewish nation state, many maintain their deep love of Israel. And they do everything they can to ensure their children will inherit that love through Hebrew culture, Jewish knowledge, and political awareness. As Israeli expats strive to instill a secular Israeli identity in the next generation, many American Jews find themselves relating. Perhaps it is the “Israeliness” rather than the Jewishness of this community that attracts them, making organized cultural Judaism accessible in a new and relevant way.

American Jewish leaders have responded to the Pew survey with a number of calls, including alternative venues for Jewish identity.

Well, look no further. The Israeli-American community may just be the answer. 

Notes on Coverage

General guidelines

A Jewish couple celebrates their wedding ceremony in 2011. Creative commons image by Krista Guenin
A Jewish couple celebrates their wedding ceremony in 2011. Creative commons image by Krista Guenin

The number of Jews in the U.S. and worldwide is declining. For this reason, many Jews are focusing on reducing rates of intermarriage, which often results in children who are not raised as Jews; encouraging childbearing; strengthening Jewish education for children and adults; countering attempts at conversion; and reaching out to secular Jews who are not observant.

The generation of Jews who survived the Holocaust is dying out, adding urgency to how the experience is described and relayed to younger generations. Anti-Semitism continues to be an issue in the United States and worldwide. In 2015, Europe, especially, saw its resurgence.

Coverage tips

  • Jews observe their Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In fact, all days and holidays on the Jewish calendar run from sundown to sundown.
  • Jewish congregations worship in synagogues and temples. Many Reform congregations use the latter term, while Orthodox and many Conservative Jews believe the word temple can refer only to the temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in 70 A.D. and which Jews hope to rebuild. Do not call a Jewish congregation a temple unless it uses that word in its name.
  • Be aware that Judaism is as much a culture as a theology. Most Americans who consider themselves Jewish have little or no affiliation with any synagogue. Modern Jewish literature sometimes describes Judaism as a “peoplehood,” reflecting the combination of faith, inherited tradition and culture. So one can be a secular Jew, though “secular Christian” makes no sense.
  • Reform Jews ordain women as rabbis, but Orthodox Jews do not. Conservative Judaism also has female rabbis, though far fewer than Reform.
  • Many issues of importance to Jews involve a mix of political, religious and social factors. Be aware that religion is part of conflicts such as those in the Middle East, but that the high number of secular (or cultural) Jews means that religion is not necessarily the only, or most important, factor.
  • Messianic Jews, who believe that Jesus is the Messiah that Jews await, consider themselves Jewish, but the vast majority of Jews don’t. This is a highly sensitive issue, and journalists should refrain from listing Messianic Jewish services in the same category as other Jewish services or referring to them in stories without explanation. Messianic Jewish leaders use the title of rabbi, which is offensive to traditional Jews.
  • Reporters face a choice when addressing issues involving Judaism — should I consult an Orthodox, Conservative or Reform rabbi for the story? This depends greatly on the issue. If the story involves dietary laws, community responses to new populations of observant Jews or similar topics, an Orthodox spokesperson would be most likely be appropriate. If the story addresses social topics like same-sex marriage or female clergy, however, a source from the more liberal community would be more useful. In other cases, use your judgment — some Conservative rabbis disagree with their sects and can add valuable insight on issues that are considered progressive.
  • Take care with language. Phrases that minimize or mock Nazism or the Holocaust, such as feminazi, are considered insensitive. Avoid using Jewish rabbi  or Jewish synagogue – these are redundant. Keep in mind most Reform congregations are called temples.
  • Use Hebrew Bible instead of the Christian term Old Testament unless it is necessary to differentiate between the two testaments.
  • Avoid the term ultra-Orthodox to describe very observant Jews so as not to lump the diversity of religious observance into one group. The term Haredi is preferable in many cases.
  • Use caution when reporting on “Hebrew-Christian” groups, such as Jews for Jesus or Chosen People Ministries. These groups employ Christian missionary tactics and are viewed with skepticism by many in the Jewish community.

Example Coverage

ShivaConnect helps Jews navigate the mourning period

By Ann Marie Somma, Religion News Service
Oct. 24, 2013

SIMSBURY, Conn. (RNS) After burying her mother, Sharon Rosen found herself dealing with a problem: deli platter deliveries.  A deluge of them, all ordered by her friends and neighbors as part of the Jewish tradition of providing food for the bereaved during the seven-day mourning period known as the “shiva.”

“We had to find a place to donate all the unused food,” Rosen said. “I said to myself, ‘This is crazy.’ There has to be a way to coordinate all of this, to get information to people.”

Two and a half years later, Rosen launched, a website that operates like a wedding registry for funeral, memorial and shiva details. The website is searchable by the deceased’s name, and visitors can find links for online memorial donations or search for the nearest deli.

There’s also an email alert to remind mourners to honor the memory of the deceased on the anniversary of their death, a Jewish tradition known as a yahrzeit.

The aim of the website is to avoid duplication and consolidate the many facets of Jewish mourning.

To date, the site has logged more than 100,000 visits.  Funeral homes, hospices and temples around the country recommend it or list it on their own websites.

“It’s a good way to reach families and friends outside the temple, and it helps those in mourning so they don’t have to spend hours on the phone,” said Howard Herman, a rabbi at the Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation.

Rosen, who lives in Boca Raton, Fla., used her own money to start the website and spent long hours researching and learning the various rituals surrounding the shiva. 

There are helpful hints on how to plan a Jewish funeral and burial and how many tables and chairs to set out during the weeklong mourning period.

A Reform Jew, Rosen never sat shiva until her mother, Dorothy Kurlander, died at age 81. Looking back, Rosen said, building the website helped her deal with her loss.

As she researched items for the site, she came to a deeper understanding of the rituals surrounding the shiva.

“I’m not a particularly religious person, but at the time of death rituals are comforting,” she said.

Samuel Green of Abraham L. Green & Son Funeral Home in Fairfield hands out ShivaConnect information cards to his Jewish customers. 

A member of the bereaved family must register on the website and enter funeral and shiva information. Green said the website is helpful, especially the section that lists what food has been delivered to the family from the local deli.

Rosen said the website can assist non-Jews looking to support Jewish friends. And because not all Jewish people mourn alike, there are resources for every branch of Judaism. 

International sources



  • Jean Duhaime

    Jean Duhaime is a professor of theology and religious studies at the Université de Montréal in Quebec, Canada. He is an expert on the Hebrew Bible, the Qumran texts and ancient Judaism. He is the author of The Dead Sea Scrolls and a chapter in Religion in the Extreme called “The ‘holy war’ in biblical Israel, historical or rhetoric?”

  • Chaya Halberstam

    Chaya Halberstam is a professor of religious studies at King’s University College in London, Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses on ancient Judaism, with an emphasis on rabbinic Judaism, and the Hebrew Bible. She is the author of Law and Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature.


  • British Association for Jewish Studies

    The British Association for Jewish Studies works to promote the teaching and research of Jewish culture throughout higher education in the United Kingdom. Dr Hannah Holtschneider is president and conference 2017 organizer.

  • Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi Ebraici

    The Centro Interdipartimentale di Studi Ebraici at Pisa University in Italy promotes the field of Jewish studies. It is an interdepartmental center that focuses on the history and culture of Judaism. Cesare Letta is director.

  • Departamento de Estudios Hebreos y Arameos

    The Departamento de Estudios Hebreos y Arameos (the department of Hebrew and Armaic studies) at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain promotes the study of Jewish culture and history. Dr. Pablo A. Torijano Morales is director.

  • Federation of Jewish Communities in CR

    The Federation of Jewish Communities in CR serves as an umbrella organization for Jewish communities, both secular and religious, in the Czech Republic. It is based in Prague.

  • Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain

    The Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain acts as a representative of the Spain’s Jewish community to the national government. It sponsors radio shows and a television program.

  • Il Pitigliani

    Il Pitigliani is an Italian Jewish center located in Rome. It provides informal education and services.

  • Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp

    The Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Antwerp in Belgium focuses on the “scientific study of Judaism” from a variety of different academic perspectives. Dr. Vivian Liska is director.

  • Institute for Jewish Studies (Institut für Judaistik)

    The Institut für Judaistik at the University of Vienna in Austria promotes the research on and teaching of Judaism with the goal of eliminating prejudice and anti-Semitism.

  • International Jewish Community of Moscow

    The International Jewish Community of Moscow was founded in 2000. It  provides a center for Moscow’s Jewish population, and for Jewish tourists. It hosts regular Shabbat and holiday services, kosher dining, and educational services. It is based on the Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy.

  • Jewish Community Centre for London

    The Jewish Community Centre for London is an inclusive movement organizing programs designed to connect London and Jewish culture.

  • Jewish Historical Society of England

    The Jewish Historical Society of England promotes the study of Ango-Jewish history. It holds monthly meetings and publishes annual transactions known as Jewish Historical Studies. The Society is based in London.

  • Judaistyka

    Judaistyka is the department of Jewish studies at Wrocław University in Poland. It teaches students Hebrew and other languages of the Jewish diaspora.

    Contact: +48-71-3752017.
  • Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies

    The Martin Buber Institute for Jewish Studies was founded in 1966 at the University of Cologne in Germany. It focuses on the history of Judaism.

  • Prague Centre for Jewish Studies

    The Prague Centre for Jewish Studies is located at Charles University in Prague. It is an interdisciplinary program for the teaching of topics related to Jewish culture. Email through website.

    Contact: +420 221 619 111.
  • Katherine Southwood

    Katherine Southwood is a tutorial fellow in theology and religion at St. John’s College in London. Her research focuses on the Hebrew Bible, with an emphasis on Israelite marriage practices and religious identity. She is the author of Ethnicity and the Mixed Marriage Crisis in Ezra 9-10: An Anthropological Approach and a number of articles on Jewish marriage and identity.

  • Vilnius Yiddush Institute

    The Vilnius Yiddush Institute is located at Vilnius University in Lithuania. It was founded in 2001 by Jewish scholars from the United States and Israel with the goal of promoting and preserving Jewish and Yiddish culture in Eastern Europe.



  • Avril Alba

    Avril Alba is a professor in the deparment of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish studies at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on the Holocaust, including post-Holocaust Jewish theology. She wrote the article “Testifying to the Holocaust” for the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal.

  • Jewish Australia Online

    Jewish Australia Online is a website providing links to information, entertainment and events regarding Jewish life in Australia. It is based in Caulfield, North Victoria.

  • Suzanne Rutland

    Suzanne Rutland is an emeritus professor of Hebrew, biblical and Jewish studies at the University of Sydney. She is the author of a comprehensive history on Australian Jewry, Edge of the Diaspora: Two Centuries of Jewish Settlement in Australia.

  • Ian Young

    Ian Young is chair of the department of Hebrew, biblical and Jewish studies at the University of Sydney. His research and teaching interests focus on the language and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible.

U.S. Sources & Resources


  • Mehnaz Afridi

    Mehnaz Afridi is an assistant professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. She is a frequent speaker on the subject of Muslim-Jewish relations.

  • Joyce Antler

    Joyce Antler is a professor of American Jewish history and culture at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. She has written about images of Jewish women on television and in popular culture.

  • Gloria Ascher

    Gloria Ascher is an associate professor of German at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., and the only American professor who offers regular college courses in modern Ladino.

  • David Berger

    David Berger is a history professor at Brooklyn College who specializes in medieval Jewish history, Jewish-Christian relations, anti-Semitism, contemporary Orthodox Judaism, and the intellectual history of the Jews. He wrote a May 2004 essay in Commentary magazine titled “Jews, Christians and ‘The Passion.'”

  • J. David Bleich

    J. David Bleich is a professor of Jewish law and ethics at Yeshiva University in New York City. He is an expert on Jewish law and bioethics and how Jewish law applies to contemporary issues. He is also conversant in how Jewish law intersects with the American legal system. He is the co-author of Jewish Bioethics and author of Bioethical Dilemmas: A Jewish Perspective.

  • Kenneth Brander

    Kenneth Brander is a rabbi and a professor at Yeshiva University in New York City. He is an expert on Jewish thinking and end-of-life issues, cloning and stem-cell research.

  • Richard Breitman

    Richard Breitman is a history professor at American University in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in the history of Germany and the Holocaust. He is editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies, published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

  • Roger Brooks

    Roger Brooks is a professor of Judaic studies at Connecticut College in New London, Conn. He teaches courses in rabbinic law, the Talmud and the Mishnah and has worked with the Holocaust Educational Foundation. 

  • Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus

    Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus is a professor of religion at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. He can discuss Jewish approaches to the treatment and rights of animals.

  • Steven M. Cohen

    Steven M. Cohen is a research professor of Jewish social policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and a senior consultant to Synagogue 3000. He is one of the authors of the 2007 National Spiritual Communities Study and can discuss its findings on independent minyanim and havurot.

  • Jeremy Dauber

    Jeremy Dauber is the acting director of the Columbia University Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies, where he specializes in Yiddish and Yiddish literature.

  • Jonathan Dauber

    Jonathan Dauber is an assistant professor of Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah and Hasidism at Yeshiva University in New York City. 

  • Hasia Diner

    Hasia Diner is a professor of American Jewish history, Hebrew and Judaic studies and director of the Center for American Jewish History at New York University in New York City. She is co-author of Her Works Praise Her: A History of Jewish Women in America From Colonial Times to the Present. She says a major problem facing American Judaism is keeping alive the excitement, loyalty and intensity of Jewish commitments needed to sustain the Jewish community. 

  • Herbert Druks

    Herbert Druks is a professor in the Judaic studies department at Brooklyn College in New York. He is an expert on the relationship between Israel and the United States and is the author of The Uncertain Friendship: The U.S. and Israel From Roosevelt to Kennedy and The Uncertain Alliance: The U.S. and Israel From Kennedy to the Peace Process.

  • Debórah Dwork

    Debórah Dwork is a senior research scholar with the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. She is an expert on Holocaust history and education.

  • Marsha Bryan Edelman

    Marsha Bryan Edelman is an adjunct professor of music and education at Gratz College in Melrose Park, Pa. She is the author of Discovering Jewish Music.

  • Gennady Estraikh

    Gennady Estraikh is an associate professor of Yiddish studies at New York University. He is a contributor to a Yiddish-language section of The Forward that aims to engage young Jews in learning Yiddish.

  • Sharon Feiman-Nemser

    Sharon Feiman-Nemser is a professor of Jewish education at Brandeis University and director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education. She says Jews need to find ways to help unaffiliated and disaffected Jews discover meaning in the faith. A major challenge, she says, will be to ascertain ways to make this ancient faith relevant to contemporary, post-modern Jews and give them good reasons to affiliate, study and identify with Judaism.

  • Louis Feldman

    Louis Feldman is a professor of classics and literature at Yeshiva University in New York City. He is an expert on conversion to Judaism and can discuss conversion from a historical perspective.

  • Sylvia Barack Fishman

    Sylvia Barack Fishman is a professor of contemporary Jewish life at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and co-director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which focuses on women in contemporary Judaism. She is the author of numerous books, including Jewish Life and American Culture (SUNY Series in American Jewish Society in the 1990s) and The Way Into the Varieties of Jewishness. She is also an expert on Jewish identity, marriage and conversion.

  • Sharon Flatto

    Sharon Flatto is an assistant professor in Judaic studies at Brooklyn College in New York, where she specializes in modern Jewish thought and the Kabbalah. She teaches courses in modern Jewish history and thought and in Hasidism.

  • Robert O. Freedman

    Robert O. Freedman is a visiting professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. He is an expert on Israel’s history and relations with other countries, especially the U.S., the former Soviet Union and the Palestinian people. He has served as a consultant to the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency on matters about Israel. He says a major issue Jews face today is the conflict between Orthodox Judaism and the rest of the American Jewish community. He can be emailed here.

  • Samuel Freedman

    Samuel Freedman is a journalism professor at Columbia University whose books include Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry. He can comment about rifts between different Jewish groups and denominations.

  • Ari Goldman

    Ari Goldman is a journalism professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. He is a former religion reporter for The New York Times and is the author of several books on Jews and Judaism, including Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today and Living a Year of Kaddish. He can discuss major issues in Judaism, both in the U.S. and in Israel, where he is a frequent visitor, and the practice of Judaism.

  • Calvin Goldscheider

    Calvin Goldscheider is a professor of Judaic studies and sociology at Brown University in Providence, R.I. He is also a scholar-in-residence at the Center for Israel Studies at American University in Washington, D.C. He is the author of many books, including Cultures in Conflict: The Arab-Israeli Conflict and Studying the Jewish Future.

  • Michael Gottsegen

    Michael Gottsegen is a visiting assistant professor in the Judaic studies program at Brown University n Providence, R.I. He studies the relation between the Jewish religion and public and political life.

  • Gershon Greenberg

    Gershon Greenberg is a professor in philosophy and religion at American University in Washington, D.C., where he specializes in Jewish philosophy and thought, especially in America.

  • Jeffrey S. Gurock

    Jeffrey S. Gurock is a professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York City. He has written several books on American Jewish history and is an expert on American Jews who served in World War II.

  • Judith Hauptman

    Judith Hauptman is professor of Talmud and Rabbinic culture at Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. She wrote the article “Abortion: Where We Stand” for the journal United Synagogue Review.

  • Samuel C. Heilman

    Samuel C. Heilman is a sociologist at the City University of New York in New York City. He is the author of Sliding to the Right: The Contest for the Future of American Jewish Orthodoxy, which argues that the ultra-Orthodox are gaining the upper hand over the Modern Orthodox. He is also co-editor of the annual periodical Contemporary Jewry, produced by the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry.

  • Jonathan Helfand

    Jonathan Helfand was a professor of modern Jewish history at Brooklyn College in New York until his retirement in 2012. He specialized in French Jewry.

  • Susannah Heschel

    Susannah Heschel is a professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. She teaches courses in contemporary Jewish life and history and is an expert on the Holocaust and on Jewish feminism.

  • Gregg Ivers

    Gregg Ivers is a professor in the school of public affairs at American University in Washington, D.C. He is an expert on constitutional law and is the author of To Build a Wall: American Jews and the Separation of Church and State.

  • Rosalie Kamelhar

    Rosalie Kamelhar is a professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies and director of the Hebrew language program at New York University.

  • Steven T. Katz

    Steven T. Katz is a religion professor at Boston University, where he teaches a course on the Holocaust. He edited The Impact of the Holocaust on Jewish Theology and Wrestling With God: Jewish Theological Responses During and After the Holocaust. He has served as chair of the academic committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is the chair of the Holocaust commission of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. He is an American representative to the European Union’s International Task Force on the Holocaust.

  • Gwynn Kessler

    Gwynn Kessler is an associate professor of religion at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she teaches a course on Judaism and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer persons.

  • Reuven Kimelman

    Reuven Kimelman is a professor of classic rabbinic literature at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., where he is an expert on contemporary Jewish life and ethics and the moral meaning of the Jewish Bible. He says a major challenge facing Jews today is finding a cogent Jewish voice on contemporary moral issues.

  • Rebecca Korbin

    Rebecca Kobrin is an assistant professor of history at Columbia University in New York City. She specializes in the history of American Judaism and is at work on a book about Jewish migration to North America.

  • Arthur Kurzweil

    Arthur Kurzweil is a New York author, editor and publisher who helped start the first Jewish Genealogical Society. His books include the classic From Generation to Generation: How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History.

  • Jon Levisohn

    Jon Levisohn is an assistant professor of Jewish education at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and assistant academic director of the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education.

  • Pamela S. Nadell

    Pamela S. Nadell is director of the Jewish studies program at American University in Washington, D.C. She is the author of several books on Jewish women and American Jewish history, including Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women’s Ordination 1889-1995. She teaches courses on American Jewish history, modern Jewish civilization, Jewish women’s history, the Holocaust and the history of Israel.

  • Allan L. Nadler

    Allan L. Nadler is director of Jewish studies at Drew University in New Jersey. He was trained as an Orthodox rabbi but is now unaffiliated and writes and comments extensively on Orthodox Jewish life.

  • Jacob Neusner

    Jacob Neusner, professor of theology at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., co-edited Altruism in World Religions. He is the author of scores of books on Rabbinic Judaism and has encyclopedic knowledge of the history of Judaism and its texts. Neusner says altruism is best studied as a religious, not a secular, impulse. He is the editor of Evil and Suffering.

  • Annelise Orleck

    Annelise Orleck is a history professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. She is an expert on Jewish-American immigrants, especially Soviet immigrants.

  • Vardit Ringvald

    Vardit Ringvald is a professor of Hebrew at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass., and is the director of a summer Hebrew language school run by Brandeis and Middlebury College in Vermont.

  • Or Rose

    Rabbi Or Rose is an associate dean of the Hebrew College Rabbinical School and director of the college’s interfaith and social justice programs. He was a speaker at the college’s event titled “The Future of Jewish-Muslim Relations: A Dialogue.”

  • David Ruderman

    David Ruderman is director of the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a professor of modern Jewish history. Contact 215-238-1290.

  • Jonathan D. Sarna

    Jonathan D. Sarna is professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He is co-author of Religion and State in the American Jewish Experience and author of American Judaism: A History, which won the Jewish Book Council’s Jewish Book of the Year Award in 2004.

  • Shuly Rubin Schwartz

    Shuly Rubin Schwartz is the Irving Lehrman Research Associate Professor of American Jewish History and dean of the Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary. Schwartz is an expert on contemporary Jewish history with a particular emphasis on the role of women. Her book, The Rabbi’s Wife: The Rebbetzin in American Jewish Life, won the 2006 National Jewish Book Award in the area of modern Jewish thought. 

  • David Shatz

    David Shatz is an adjunct professor of religion at Columbia University in New York City and a professor of philosophy at Yeshiva University. He is also the editor of Torah u-Madda, a journal about the interaction between Judaism and the broader culture.

  • Eugene Sheppard

    Eugene Sheppard is an associate professor of modern Jewish history and thought at Brandeis University in Boston and associate director of the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry. He is an expert on the influence of European Jewish refugees on public life and academia in the U.S.

  • Shimon Shokek

    Shimon Shokek is a professor of Jewish philosophy and mysticism at Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University. He has written about Jewish mysticism, including the Kabbalah.

  • Daniel Schwarz

    Daniel Schwarz is a professor of English literature at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is the author of Imagining the Holocaustwhich examined the problem of teaching about the Holocaust once the eyewitnesses are dead.

  • Mitchell Silver

    Mitchell Silver is a lecturer in philosophy at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. He is the author of Respecting the Wicked Child: A Philosophy of Secular Jewish Identity and Education. He says the most important issue facing American Jews today is maintaining a shared identity despite branch affiliations and secularism. 

  • Ellen Smith

    Ellen Smith is a lecturer in Near Eastern and Judaic studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. She is also principal of Museumsmith, a firm that helps museums with exhibitions and historic site interpretations. She has helped mount numerous exhibits on Jewish culture throughout the country.

  • Michael Stanislawski

    Michael Stanislawski is the Nathan J. Miller Professor of Jewish History at Columbia University in New York City. He was a featured speaker at a recent International Conference on Jewish Genealogy.

  • Jonathan Steinberg

    Jonathan Steinberg is a professor of modern European history at the University of Pennsylvania. One of his specialties is secular Judaism in Europe and the U.S. 

  • Alan Steinweis

    Alan Steinweis is a professor of history and Holocaust studies at the University of Vermont. He directs the school’s Center for Holocaust Studies and is an expert on the history of Nazi Germany.

  • Suzanne Stone

    Suzanne Stone is a law professor and director of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at Yeshiva University in New York City.

  • Ilan Troen

    Ilan Troen is a professor of Judaic studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. He is the founding editor of the journal Israel Studies, published three times a year, and has written 10 books on American, Jewish and Israeli history.

  • Beth Wenger

    Beth Wenger is an associate professor of American Jewish history at the University of Pennsylvania and author of The Jewish Americans: Three Centuries of Jewish Voices in America. She wrote the chapter titled “The Politics of Women’s Ordination: Jewish Law, Institutional Power and the Debate Over Women in the Rabbinate” in Tradition Renewed: A History of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

  • Jack Wertheimer

    Jack Wertheimer is the Joseph and Martha Mendelson Professor of American Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. The seminary is the central educational institution of the Conservative movement in Judaism. Among the dozen books Wertheimer has authored or edited are A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America, Jews in the Center: Conservative Synagogues and Their Members and Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality.

  • Elie Wiesel

    Elie Wiesel is a Holocaust survivor who teaches in the philosophy and religion departments at Boston University. The 1986 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is also a prolific author whose books include his Holocaust memoir, Night, and several other volumes about that period. 

  • Ruth Wisse

    Ruth Wisse is a professor of Yiddish literature at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. She received a 2007 National Humanities Medal for her work in Yiddish literature and contemporary Jewish culture.


  • Yaakov Ariel

    Yaakov Ariel is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Evangelizing the Chosen People: Missions to the Jews in America, 18802000, and teaches several courses on contemporary Judaism.

  • Robert Abzug

    Robert Abzug is a professor of history and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He teaches a course on the impact of Jewish artists, writers and musicians on American life.

  • Martin Beifield Jr.

    Rabbi Martin Beifield Jr. leads Congregation Beth Ahabah, a Reform synagogue in Richmond, Va. He is an expert in Jewish-Christian relations and the impact of the Holocaust.

  • Michael Berger

    Michael Berger is an associate professor at the Tam Institute of Jewish Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. Among his areas of expertise are the development of Jewish law and Jewish ethics and the relationship between Judaism and violence.

  • David Blumenthal

    David Blumenthal is a professor of Judaic studies at the Tam Institute of Jewish Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. He is the author of two seminal books on Jewish mysticism, God at the Center: Meditations on Jewish Spirituality and Understanding Jewish Mysticism. Additionally, he is the author of The Banality of Good and Evil: Moral Lessons from the Shoah and Jewish Tradition. He notes that both perpetrators and rescuers often say they were just doing what was expected of them.

  • Michael Broyde

    Michael Broyde is a professor of law and senior fellow in the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University in Atlanta. He edited the book Marriage, Sex and Family in Judaism.

  • Henry Eaton

    Henry Eaton is a professor emeritus of history at the University of North Texas in Denton. He is an expert on the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism.

  • Jay Geller

    Jay Geller is an associate professor of modern Jewish culture and religious studies at the divinity school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. He has written on atheism and modern Judaism. He is also an expert on Judiams and modernity and the Holocaust on film and in literature.

  • Andrea Greenbaum

    Andrea Greenbaum is an associate professor of English at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. She is the editor of Jews of South Florida and is also an expert on Jewish graphic novels.

  • Jonathan Hess

    Jonathan Hess is director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Its faculty members are drawn from the humanities and social sciences.

  • Sheldon R. Isenberg

    Sheldon R. Isenberg is an associate professor of religion at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He specializes in Jewish mysticism and comparative mysticism. 

  • Jack Kugelmass

    Jack Kugelmass is an anthropology professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he is also director of its Jewish studies center. He specializes in American and European Jewry, Israel and Jews in New York.

  • Oliver Leaman

    Oliver Leaman is a professor of philosophy and Zantker Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Kentucky and co-editor of Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, which describes a history of American funeral practices.

  • Deborah Lipstadt

    Deborah Lipstadt is a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at the Tam Institute of Jewish Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. She is the author of History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving, about her experience of being sued for libel by Irving for calling him a Holocaust denier. She won the case, considered groundbreaking among Holocaust scholars. She is also a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

  • Sharon Miller

    Sharon Miller is the principal of Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood, Fla., the first publicly funded Hebrew-language school in the U.S.

    Contact: 954-342-4064.
  • Peter Ochs

    Peter Ochs is a professor of modern Judaic studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He is an expert on Jewish philosophy and theology, the history of Jewish thought and Jewish ethics. Among the courses he teaches is one on Jewish theology after the Holocaust and another on belief and ethics after the Holocaust. He says Jews must recover their pride in what Judaism has to offer the world. Only then, he says, can they recover from a sense of victimhood, regain a sense of self-sufficiency and power and reinvigorate Judaism with hope and generosity.

  • Vanessa Ochs

    Vanessa Ochs is the author of The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: CLAL’s Guide to Everyday and Holiday Rituals and Blessings. She is a professor in the department of religious studies at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. She can talk about the role of the Internet in the contemporary Jewish dating scene, life cycle rituals for single people and the creation of rituals that acknowledge the place of single people in the community.

  • David Patterson

    David Patterson is a professor of Holocaust studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. He is an expert on the Holocaust and serves as an adviser to two U.S. Holocaust museums.

  • Julian Henri Preisler

    Julian Henri Preisler is an archivist and genealogist in the Eastern Panhandle region of West Virginia. He formerly ran a website about West Virginia Jewish history.

  • Stuart Rockoff

    Stuart Rockoff is the current executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council and former director of the history department at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss. He is an expert on this history of Southern Jews.

  • Jonathan Schick

    Rabbi Jonathan Schick is an adjunct philosophy and Jewish studies professor at the University of North Texas in Denton. He is an expert on Jewish education and has served as headmaster of two Jewish prep schools. He writes a monthly ethics column.

  • Shmuel Shepkaru

    Shmuel Shepkaru is an associate professor of Judaic history at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he teaches a course on Jewish mysticism.

  • Kenneth Stein

    Kenneth Stein is a professor of contemporary Middle Eastern and Israeli studies at the Tam Institute of Jewish Studies at Emory University in Atlanta. He is one of the foremost authorities on the history of modern Israel and has written numerous books on the subject, including one in collaboration with former President Jimmy Carter.

  • Kenneth Wald

    Kenneth Wald is a professor of political science at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he also teaches on American Jewish culture and society. He wrote the book Religion and Politics in the United States.

  • Lee Shai Weissbach

    Lee Shai Weissbach is a history professor at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He is an expert on small-town Jewish life in America, especially in the South, where surveys show traditional observance tends to be lower than in other areas.


  • Rachel Baum

    Rachel Baum is deputy director of the Sam & Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she also teaches courses on the Holocaust, contemporary American Jewish identity and Jewish feminism. Additionally, she co-directs the Stephen Weinstein Holocaust Symposium, an international gathering of Holocaust scholars.

  • Judah M. Cohen

    Judah M. Cohen is a professor of Jewish culture and an assistant professor of folklore and ethnomusicology at Indiana University. He is the author of The Making of a Reform Jewish Cantor: Musical Authority, Cultural Investment. He was a fellow at New York University’s Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, where he studied the “new” Jewish music and culture scene, including Jews and hip-hop and rap.

  • Lynn Davidman

    Lynn Davidman is a professor of modern Jewish studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. She is an expert on those who leave Hasidic and Orthodox Judaism, both in the U.S. and in Israel.

  • Michael Eppel

    Michael Eppel is a senior lecturer in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Haifa. He teaches courses on the history of the Middle East, including the Israeli-Arab conflict and the history of Israel.

  • Russell Arben Fox

    Russell Arben Fox is a political science professor at Friends University in Wichita, Ks. On In Medias Res, a blog of his writings, he has written that the Democratic Party has abandoned religious progressives. He has called for transformation of America’s political and party system.

  • Isaac Jerusalmi

    Isaac Jerusalmi is a professor emeritus of Bible and Semitic languages at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. He wrote the introduction to Stanford University’s digitized Ladino library.

  • Judith Katz

    Judith Katz is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Among her areas of expertise is representation of Jews in the arts and popular culture.

  • Harold Loss

    Rabbi Harold Loss leads the 12,000 members of Temple Israel, a Reform congregation in Bloomfield, Mich.

  • Shaul Magid

    Shaul Magid is a professor of Jewish studies and religious studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. Among his specialties are Jewish ethics, and contemporary conceptions of Jewish religiosity, renewal and fundamentalism.

  • Anthony Michels

    Anthony Michels is an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches a course called “The American Jewish Experience: From Shtetl to Suburb.”

  • Deborah Dash Moore

    Deborah Dash Moore is director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She teaches a course in American Jewish history and is an expert on women in Reconstructionist Judaism. Her specialty is 20th-century Jewish urban history.

  • Eboo Patel

    Eboo Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith America, a Chicago-based international nonprofit that focuses on encouraging interfaith dialogue. Request an interview through Teri Simon at Interfaith America.

  • Gary G. Porton

    Gary G. Porton is a professor of religious studies, history and literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches courses in American Judaism, Jewish customs and ceremonies and the Holocaust.

  • Riv-Ellen Prell

    Riv-Ellen Prell is a history professor and chair of the American studies program at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. She is an expert on women in Judaism and is the editor of Women Remaking American Judaism. She says Jews should be concerned with effectively understanding the meaning of change in Jewish life, including intermarriage, falling birth rates and decline of traditional forms of association like synagogues or federations.

  • Mark Roseman

    Mark Roseman is a professor of Jewish studies and history at Indiana University in Bloomington, where his specialties include the history of the Holocaust.


  • Mira Amiras

    Mira Amiras is a professor of humanities at San José State University in California. She teaches courses in Judaism, Zionism and the state and Jewish mysticism, among others.

  • Paul Burstein

    Paul Burstein is chairman of the Jewish studies program at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is an expert on the American Jewish community.

  • Carol Edelman

    Carol Edelman is an associate professor in sociology and social work at California State University, Chico. Part of her research and teaching focuses on Jewish response to the Holocaust and to 20th-century genocide.

  • Daniel Fink

    Rabbi Daniel Fink leads Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, a Reform congregation in Boise, Idaho. He is an expert on Jewish environmentalism.

  • Reuven Firestone

    Rabbi Reuven Firestone is a professor of medieval Jewish and Islamic studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. He is the author of numerous books on Jewish-Muslim relations, including An Introduction to Islam for Jews and Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims.

  • Saul Friedlander

    Saul Friedlander is a history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for his book The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945.

  • Yechiel Shalom Goldberg

    Yechiel Shalom Goldberg teaches in the Jewish studies program at California State University, Long Beach, where he specializes in the study of Jewish mysticism.

  • Josh Kun

    Josh Kun is a professor of journalism and communication at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where he directs the Popular Music Project at the Norman Lear Center. He is a co-founder of the nonprofit record label Reboot Stereophonic, dedicated to Jewish-American music. He is co-author of And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost.

  • Neil Levin

    Neil Levin is the artistic director of the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music in Santa Monica, Calif and a professor of music at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

  • Mendel Lifshitz

    Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz and his wife, Esther, direct Chabad Jewish Center of Idaho in Boise. The center is part of Chabad Lubavitch, a New York community of Hasidim.

    Contact: 208-853-9200.
  • David N. Myers

    David N. Myers is a history professor and director of the UCLA Center for Jewish Studies in Los Angeles. He is at work on a major history of the Jews of Los Angeles.

  • Stephen Pearce

    Rabbi Stephen Pearce leads Congregation Emanu-El, a Reform synagogue and San Francisco’s largest Jewish congregation.

  • Gallia Porat

    Gallia Porat is a lecturer in modern and biblical Hebrew at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. She has developed her own technique for teaching Hebrew to teenagers and adults. She has also taught Hebrew to new immigrants to Israel.

  • Norbert Samuelson

    Norbert Samuelson is a professor of religious studies at Arizona State University in Tempe, where he is an expert in Jewish philosophy and thought.

  • Robert Wexler

    Robert Wexler is president of the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism and the Brandeis-Bardin Institute) in Los Angeles. Under his presidency, AJU has grown to 10,000 students.

  • Steven J. Zipperstein

    Steven J. Zipperstein is a professor in Jewish culture and history at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif. He is co-editor of a series of books titled Jewish Lives from Yale University Press. His research areas include modern Jewish history, and he teaches a course on Jews in the modern world.

U.S. rabbis

  • “Top 50 Influential Rabbis in America”

    Newsweek magazine posted a Web-exclusive list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America on April 11, 2008.

  • Morris Allen

    Rabbi Morris Allen heads Beth Jacob Congregation, a Conservative congregation in Mendota Heights, Minn. Allen is behind a push to make kosher food meet certain ethical standards, such as paying workers a fair wage. The result, Magen Tzedek, or “justice certification,” is gaining ground in many Conservative synagogues and households. He blogs about keeping ethically kosher.

  • Andy Bachman

    Rabbi Andy Bachman and his wife, Rachel Altstein, are leaders in the burgeoning emergent synagogue movement. They are founders of Brooklyn Jews, an informal congregation of young, urban Jews in the New York borough. In 2007, Andy became the head rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim, the borough’s largest Reform synagogue. He writes a blog that is widely read by young Jews.

  • Sharon Brous

    Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founder of IKAR, a Los Angeles-based progressive Jewish community focused sharply on social justice.

  • Barry Freundel

    Rabbi Barry Freundel is the leader of Kesher Israel, a Modern Orthodox congregation in Washington, D.C., whose members include a U.S. senator and a number of other government officials. The congregation maintains an eruv in the middle of the nation’s capital.

  • Elyse Frishman

    Rabbi Elyse Frishman is a Reform rabbi and spiritual leader of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes, N.J. She served as editor of the Mishkan T’filah, only the fourth prayer book in the 150-year history of American Reform Judaism.

  • Laura Geller

    Rabbi Laura Geller is the principal rabbi at Temple Emanuel, one of the largest Reform synagogues in Beverly Hills, Calif. She was among the first class of women rabbis to be ordained in the Reform movement.

  • Sharon Kleinbaum

    Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum is a Reform rabbi who leads Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in New York City, the world’s largest synagogue for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews.

  • Michael Lerner

    Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun magazine and founder of the Tikkun Community, a peace and social justice movement. He is also a co-founder The Network of Spiritual Progressives.

  • Naomi Levy

    Rabbi Naomi Levy is the founder of Nashuva, a Jewish worship community in Los Angeles. Levy is widely credited with finding innovative and creative ways of engaging unaffiliated and disaffected Jews with their faith.

  • M. Bruce Lustig

    Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig heads Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform synagogue and the largest Jewish congregation in Washington, D.C. He is active in interfaith issues and helped organize what is called “the nation’s first Abrahamic Summit,” a meeting of Christians, Jews and Muslims for interfaith dialogue.

  • Rolando Matalon

    Rabbi Rolando Matalon heads the Conservative Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York City. He has been part of a team of rabbis that brought this synagogue from the verge of closing to a current membership of 1,800 households. He has brought his focus on social justice and peace to the forefront at B’nai Jeshurun.

    Contact: 212-787-7600.
  • Harold M. Schulweis

    Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis leads Congregation Valley Beth Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Encino, Calif. He is the founder of the Jewish World Watch project, which works to raise awareness in synagogues about the genocide in Darfur. Among the many books he has authored, Evil and the Morality of God is considered a classic.

  • Toba Spitzer

    Rabbi Toba Spitzer is president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the first openly gay woman to become its leader. She is the head rabbi at Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in West Newton, Mass.

  • David Stern

    Rabbi David Stern is a Reform rabbi who heads Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, the Southwest’s largest Jewish congregation. He was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the 50 most influential American rabbis in 2008.

  • Avi Weiss

    Rabbi Avi Weiss is the senior rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx, an Orthodox synagogue. He originated the idea of “open Orthodoxy” – a progressive form of Orthodoxy that would expand the sources for interpreting Jewish law, support the state of Israel, expand the role of women, embrace pluralism and engage in political protest and activism.

U.S. sources

  • Yehuda Berg

    Yehuda Berg is an Orthodox rabbi and founder of the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Power of Kabbalah, which popularized the ancient Jewish mystic text and its practices to many non-Jews. He has a weekly blog.

  • Sue Fishkoff

    Sue Fishkoff is the author of The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubavitch. She is a frequent contributor to The Jerusalem Post and other Jewish media. She lives in Pacific Grove, Calif. Contact through the form on her website.

  • Jen Taylor Friedman

    Jen Taylor Friedman is one of the few known female Torah scribes in the world. Last year, she became the first female scribe to complete an entire Torah scroll, for the United Hebrew Congregation, a St. Louis Reform synagogue that commissioned it. She is also the creator of Tefillin Barbie, a version of the Mattel icon wearing a prayer shawl and sporting a Torah scroll. She is based in Brooklyn.

    Contact: 718-664-4296.
  • Elie Kaunfer

    Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is a co-founder of Mechon Hadar: An Institute for Prayer, Personal Growth and Jewish Study, an independent minyan in New York City that has led to a network of similar, postdenominational minyanim across the country. He was named to Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36: The Next Wave of Jewish Innovators.”

    Contact: 212-284-6913.
  • Joshua Ross

    Joshua Ross is the founder of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit agency that helps resolve contested divorces under Jewish law. He was named to Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36: The Next Wave of Jewish Innovators.”

    Contact: 646-796-4551.
  • Daniel Sieradski

    Daniel Sieradski is the founder of Jewschool, a blog that covers everything from politics to religion to art from a Jewish perspective. It has 50,000 readers and contributors from 80 countries. He was named to Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36: The Next Wave of Jewish Innovators.”

  • Melissa Weintraub

    Rabbi Melissa Weintraub is a Conservative rabbi and co-founder/co-director of Encounter, a nonprofit that brings together Jewish and Palestinian leaders in an effort to foster better understanding and, eventually, peace. She was named to Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36: The Next Wave of Jewish Innovators.”

  • Joey Weisenberg

    Joey Weisenberg is the creative director of the Hadar Center for Communal Jewish Music. He is a mandolin player who is bringing ancient Jewish nigunim, or wordless rabbinic hymns, back into synagogue music. He was named to Jewish Week’s “36 Under 36: The Next Wave of Jewish Innovators” (scroll down).

Web resources

  • Judaism

    Beliefnet, a multifaith religion website and online community, maintains a section on Judaism that includes news articles, essays, blogs, how-to’s, discussions and reviews.

  • Jewish Virtual Library

    The Jewish Virtual Library is an online Jewish encyclopedia with 13,000 articles and 6,000 photographs on topics ranging from anti-Semitism to Zionism as well as statistics on numerous aspects of Jewish life.

  • Judaism 101

    Judaism 101 is a general clearinghouse of information about Judaism run by Tracey Rich, a Jewish layperson. It contains descriptions of the Jewish calendar, the Hebrew alphabet, holidays, life-cycle events, rituals, observances and much more.

  • Judaism has an extensive section on Jews and Judaism, including descriptions of recent controversies, including Christian Zionism, missionary efforts aimed at Jews and recent acts of anti-Semitism.

  • Shamash

    Shamash, a project of Hebrew College Online, maintains a kosher database and information on Jewish books, the Holocaust and the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible. It includes links to all things Jewish on the Internet.

  • Patheos: Judaism offers many resources on Judaism, including an overview, history, explanation of beliefs, rituals and worship and section on ethics and community.

U.S. higher education

  • Academic Jewish Studies Internet Directory

    The Academic Jewish Studies Internet Directory lists and provides links to university programs in Jewish studies in the United States.

  • Academy for Jewish Religion

    The Academy for Jewish Religion is a rabbinical and cantorial school in Riverdale, N.Y., that serves all branches of Judaism. Ora Horn Prouser is executive vice president and dean.

    Contact: 914-709-0900.
  • Academy for Jewish Religion, California

    The Academy for Jewish Religion, California, is a transdenominational rabbinical, cantorial and chaplaincy school in Los Angeles associated with the Hillel Center for Jewish Life on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. Rabbi Mel Gottlieb is president.

  • American Jewish University

    American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism and Brandeis-Bardin Institute) is a transdenominational school in Los Angeles, and AJU’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies ordains Conservative rabbis, both men and women. It maintains a page of issues and experts for journalists. Robert Wexler is AJU’s president.

  • Association for Jewish Studies

    Association for Jewish Studies is a professional organization that promotes Jewish studies in higher learning. It maintains a directory of universities and colleges with Jewish studies programs.

  • Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University

    Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Jewish studies, Jewish education and Jewish communal service. Erika Schon is the director.

  • Berman Center for Jewish Studies

    The Berman Center for Jewish Studies is at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. Martin Kavko is director.

  • Brandeis University

    Brandeis University is a private, nonsectarian Jewish university in Waltham, Mass. It was founded in 1948 as a university for Jews rejected by Ivy League schools because of quotas. Fred Lawrence is president.

    Contact: 781-736-3001.
  • Drisha Institute for Jewish Education

    The Drisha Institute for Jewish Education is a school created for Jewish women who want to study advanced Hebrew texts. Rabbi David Silber is its founder and dean. It is in New York City.

  • Gratz College

    Gratz College is a transdenominational school in Melrose Park, Pa., that offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees. It also operates a Jewish Community High School. Jerry Kutnick is dean of academic affairs.

  • Hebrew College

    Hebrew College in Newton Centre, Mass., has programs in Jewish studies, Jewish education, transdenominational rabbinic ordination for both men and women, cantor education and Mekorot (Hebrew language and Jewish texts). It also maintains Prozdor, a Jewish high school. Rabbi Daniel Lehmann is the college’s president.

  • Institute of Traditional Judaism–The Metivta

    Institute of Traditional Judaism–The Metivta is the educational arm of the Union of Traditional Judaism of Teaneck, N.J. The UTJ describes itself as “a trans-denominational education and outreach organization dedicated to promoting the principles of traditional Judaism.” The ITJ offers training for both men and women but ordains men only. Rabbi Ronald Price is dean.

  • Jewish Theological Seminary

    The Jewish Theological Seminary is a collection of five schools, including a rabbinical school, in New York City. It ordains both men and women in the Conservative movement. A page for journalists lists faculty members by topic.

  • Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies

    The Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies is at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It maintains a list of faculty from across the school. Michael Bernard-Donals is director.

  • Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

    The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa., ordains rabbis in the Reconstructionist tradition of Judaism. It ordains both men and women. A page for journalists lists experts by topic. Eileen Fisher is assistant vice president for communications.

  • Spertus College

    Spertus College is the transdenominational academic branch of the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. It offers master’s and doctoral degrees in Jewish studies and Jewish education.

  • Yeshiva University

    Yeshiva University, based in Manhattan, is the flagship school of higher education in Orthodox Judaism in the United States. Yeshiva is identified with the Modern Orthodox movement.

U.S. history





Organizations, institutions


  • American Jewish Committee

    The American Jewish Committee is an international think tank and advocacy organization that works to identify and fight anti-Semitism and bigotry, protect human rights and protect Israel and Jewish life everywhere. Its executive director is David Harris. Contact via Jon Schweitzer, director of public affairs.

  • Anti-Defamation League

    The Anti-Defamation League tracks discrimination based on religion. ADL has 30 regional offices. Check with local ADL officials for a breakdown on the number and type of antisemitic incidents in your area and for leads on interfaith initiatives.

  • B’nai B’rith International

    B’nai B’rith International is a humanitarian, human rights and advocacy group in existence since 1843. Its Center for Human Rights and Public Policy fights anti-Semitism worldwide and speaks out on domestic and international policy matters of concern to Jews. B’nai B’rith’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C. The executive vice president is Daniel S. Mariaschin.

  • Jewish Defense League

    The Jewish Defense League fights genocide, defamation and anti-Semitism. It considers itself the most controversial of pro-Israel Jewish organizations and defends the actions of Dr. Baruch Goldstein and Rabbi Meir Kahane. It is based in Los Angeles.

    Contact: 818-980-8535.
  • Jewish Women International

    Jewish Women International advocates for the rights of women and children, including victims of abuse, in the Jewish community. It has offices and chapters around the United States and convenes the National Center on Domestic & Sexual Violence in the Jewish Community. The media contact is Deborah Rosenbloom, JWI chief program officer.

  • Jewish World Watch

    Jewish World Watch fights genocide and other human rights violations through education, advocacy and refugee services. It’s based in Encino, Calif. Michael Lieb Jeser is executive director.

  • Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa

    Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa is a human rights advocacy organization that works on behalf of Jewish refugees from those areas. It is based in San Francisco, with branches in Boston and Seattle. Sarah Levin is executive director.

  • Jewish Federation of North America

    The Jewish Federation of North America is an umbrella association for 155 Jewish federations and 300 independent Jewish communities in the U.S. It works for social justice and human rights. Its website includes a directory of member federations in North America.


  • Council for Jews With Special Needs

    The Council for Jews With Special Needs provides programs, resources and support for Jews with disabilities to help them meet their spiritual needs. Gail Holtzman Gilmartin is executive director. It is based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

  • Empowering Jews With Disabilities

    Empowering Jews With Disabilities works to give a voice to Jews with disabilities. It was founded by Marlee Kivens, who has spina bifida. It is based in Minnetonka, Minn.

  • Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities

    Yachad, the National Jewish Council for Disabilities, works on behalf of individuals who have disabilities. It has chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada. Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman is national director.

  • Yad HaChazakah: The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center

    Yad HaChazakah: The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center helps Jews with visible and invisible disabilities stay engaged with their families and communities. The center, which is in New York City, offers coaching, mentoring and advocacy. Sharon Shapiro-Lacks is director.

  • Yesodot

    Yesodot is a nonprofit that works to build community foundation and support for Jews in the Boston area who have disabilities or special needs. It also provides parental and sibling support.

    Contact: 781-647-5327.



  • Canfei Nesharim

    Canfei Nesharim (Hebrew for “the wings of eagles”) works to educate the Orthodox Jewish community about preserving the environment. Evonne Marzouk is the organization’s founder and executive director.

  • Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

    The Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life concentrates on addressing climate change and encouraging sustainable congregations. Its national partners are the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.

  • Hazon

    Hazon is an organization promoting healthy Jewish communities in a variety of ways, including outdoor challenge and food programs. Based in New York, Hazon has developed bike and hike programs, and its food wing promotes community-supported agriculture in 18 communities, up from 10 in 2007. Other food programs include a curriculum, an annual conference and a blog. Nigel Savage is president.

  • Shalom Center

    The Shalom Center focuses on planetary ecological dangers from its offices in Philadelphia. It is associated with the Jewish Renewal movement, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director.

  • Teva Learning Center

    Teva Learning Center is a Jewish environmental education institute. It is nondenominational and provides educational service for participants from Jewish day schools, congregational schools, synagogues, camps and youth groups. Yishai Cohen is director of programs.


  • American Jewish World Service

    American Jewish World Service “works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.” AJWS founded the Save Darfur Coalition, an alliance of more than 170 faith-based, advocacy and humanitarian organizations.

  • B’nai B’rith International

    B’nai B’rith International is a humanitarian, human rights and advocacy group in existence since 1843. Its Center for Human Rights and Public Policy fights anti-Semitism worldwide and speaks out on domestic and international policy matters of concern to Jews. B’nai B’rith’s headquarters are in Washington, D.C. The executive vice president is Daniel S. Mariaschin.

  • Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society

    The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society has worked since 1881 to provide rescue, resettlement and reunion services to Jews in need throughout the world and to other oppressed migrants. Its headquarters are in New York City. Mark Hetfield is president and CEO. Contact through the form on the website.

  • Jewish Coalition for Service

    The Jewish Coalition for Service promotes volunteerism among Jews as a fulfillment of tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of “repairing the world.” David Eisner is president and CEO.

  • Jewish Federation of North America

    The Jewish Federation of North America is an umbrella association for 155 Jewish federations and 300 independent Jewish communities in the U.S. It works for social justice and human rights. Its website includes a directory of member federations in North America.


  • Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations

    The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations is an association of institutes that work to foster mutual understanding between Jews and Christians. Members are listed on its website. Dr. Ruth Langer chairs the council’s board. Contact through the form on the website.

  • International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

    The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews an organization designed to promote cooperation and understanding between Jews and Christians and foster support for Israel. Its founder and president is Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

  • National Council of Synagogues

    The National Council of Synagogues includes representatives from the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The council meets with other major faith groups, such as the National Council of Churches, to discuss issues and concerns. Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal is the NCS executive director.


  • Ameinu

    Ameinu is a pro-Israel, Zionist organization based in New York City. It describes itself as progressive. Kenneth Bob is president. It maintains a list of chapters throughout the U.S.

  • American Israel Public Affairs Committee

    The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was named by The New York Times as the most powerful pro-Israel advocacy group. AIPAC claims 100,000 members and is based in Washington, D.C.

  • Association of Reform Zionists of America

    The Association of Reform Zionists of America speaks on behalf of Israel for the Reform movement. Rabbi Joshua Weinberg is president.

  • Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace)

    Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace) is a group of American Jews dedicated to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Diane Kantor is executive director. It is based in Chicago and maintains a list of chapters throughout the U.S.

  • Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations

    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is an umbrella association of 51 Jewish organizations that fosters support for Israel among politicians, Jews and the broader community. It is based in New York City.

  • David Project Center for Jewish Leadership

    The David Project Center for Jewish Leadership describes itself as an educational nonprofit that focuses on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Founder Charles Jacobs, who recently left the center, was named one of the 50 most influential Jews by Forward in 2008. The center is based in Boston and has offices in New York and Israel. David Bernstein is executive director.

  • Encounter

    Encounter introduces emerging Jewish leaders to the issues of Palestine and its people. Yona Shem-Tov is its North American co-director.

  • Hadassah

    Hadassah, the Jewish Zionist women’s organization, sponsors Israel tours mixing education, politics and religion.

  • Israel on Campus Coalition

    The Israel on Campus Coalition advocates for Israel on college campuses, monitoring for anti-Israel bias in media and in classes. Marjan Keypour Greenblatt is acting director.

  • Jewish Council for Public Affairs

    The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (formerly the American Jewish Public Affairs Committee), based in New York with offices in Washington, represents the organized American Jewish community, particularly in protecting the rights of Jews everywhere and in supporting a just and pluralistic American democracy. Ask Senior Vice President Martin Raffel how to reach representatives in the local chapters.

  • Mercaz USA

    Mercaz USA is the Zionist arm of the Conservative movement. It advocates for Israel and works to build ties between the Jewish diaspora and Israel. Janet Tobin is president. It is based in New York City.

  • Neturei Karta

    Neturei Karta is an anti-Zionist organization that opposes the existence of the state of Israel because its members believe that a sovereign Israel is contrary to Jewish law. Rabbi Dovid Weiss is associate director and is based in Monsey, N.Y. Contact via the form on its website.

  • StandWithUs

    StandWithUs is a pro-Israel advocacy group founded by Roz Rothstein, named one of the 50 most influential Jews by Forward in 2008. The organization maintains chapters by region as well as a youth branch, StandWithUs Campus, with several regional offices.



  • Akron Jewish News

    Akron Jewish News is the publication of the Jewish Community Board of Akron in Akron, Oh. Lisa Hofmann is editor.

  • Arizona Jewish Post

    The Arizona Jewish Post is the biweekly publication of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona. Phyllis Braun is executive editor.

  • Atlanta Jewish Times

    The Atlanta Jewish Times is a publication serving the Jews of Atlanta, Ga. Clifford M. Weiss is owner and publisher.

  • Baltimore Jewish Times

    The Baltimore Jewish Times is a weekly newspaper serving Baltimore’s Jewish community. Maayan Jaffe is managing editor.

  • Cleveland Jewish News

    The Cleveland Jewish News is a weekly Jewish newspaper serving Northeast Ohio. It is based in Beachwood, Oh.

  • Commentary Magazine

    Commentary Magazine is a monthly neo-conservative magazine that focuses on politics and current events. John Podhoretz is editorial director.

    Contact: 212-891-1394.
  • Florida Jewish Journal

    The Florida Jewish Journal is one of seven weekly editions of the Jewish Journal. It is published by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  • Heeb

    Heeb calls itself “a take-no-prisoners zine for the plugged-in and preached-out.” Launched in 2001, the magazine covers politics, arts and culture and is marketed to young Jewish sophisticates. Joshua Neuman is editor and publisher.

  • Heritage Florida Jewish News

    Heritage Florida Jewish News is a publication for the Jewish community of Central Florida. It is based in Fern Park, Fl.

  • Intermountain Jewish News

    Intermountian Jewish News is an independent weekly Jewish newspaper. It covers events in Judaism in the Northwest, as well as throughout the world. It is based in Denver.

  • Jewish Action

    Jewish Action is a print and online magazine of the Orthodox Union. Nechama Carmel is the editor.

    Contact: 212-613-8146.
  • Jewish Community Chronicle

    The Jewish Community Chronicle is the official publication of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Long Beach & West Orange County.

  • The Jewish Daily Forward

    The Jewish Daily Forward is a Jewish-American newspaper and website published in New York City.

  • Jewish Exponent

    The Jewish Exponent is a Jewish newspaper published by the Jewish Publication Group. It is based in Philadelphia. Lisa Hostein is executive editor.

  • Jewish Herald-Voice

    The Jewish-Herald Voice is a Jewish newspaper based in Dallas. Jeanne F. Samuels is editor.

  • Jewish Ledger

    The Jewish Ledger is Connecticut’s only weekly Jewish newspaper. It is based in West Hartford, Conn. Click here to access their contact form.

    Contact: 860-231-2424.
  • Jewish News of Greater Phoenix

    Jewish News of Greater Phoenix is an independent weekly Jewish newspaper published in Phoenix.

  • Jewish Newsweekly of Northern California

    The Jewish Newsweekly of Northern California is a Jewish weekly newspaper based in San Francisco.

    Contact: 415-263-7200.
  • Jewish Post

    The Jewish Post is an independent newspaper reporting on news of Jewish interest throughout the world. It is based in New York City. Contact through the website.

  • Jewish Telegraphic Agency

    An international news agency covering current events and issues of interest to Jewish people

  • Jewish United Fund

    The Jewish United Fund is a Chicago organization that provides funding to Jewish organizations.

    Contact: 312-346-6700.
  • JValley News

    JValley News is the official publication of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. It is based in Los Gatos, Calif. Jyl Jurman is chief executive officer.

  • Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

    The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle is a weekly Jewish newspaper based in Fairway, Kan. Barbara Bayer is editor.

  • Lilith Magazine

    Lilith Magazine is a Jewish feminist magazine that covers politics, religion, art and culture. Susan Weidman Schneider is editor in chief and one of the founders of the publication.

  • Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly

    Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly is an Orthodox Jewish magazine. It is published in Jerusalem. Its North American office is based in Brooklyn.

  • Moment

    Moment magazine focuses on Jewish life and culture in America.

  • New Jersey Jewish News

    The New Jersey Jewish News is a publication of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetrwoWest NJ. Andrew Silow-Carroll is editor-in-chief.

  • Rockland Jewish Reporter

    The Rockland Jewish Reporter is the official monthly publication of the Jewish Federation of Rockland County. It is based in West Nyack, N.Y. Marla Cohen is editor.

  • Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

    The Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center is located in Bridgewater, N.J. Its website includes a page on Jewish current events and headlines. Laura Friedman is executive director.

  • Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility

    Sh’ma: A Journal of Jewish Responsibility is a monthly magazine that contains essays about a central issue in Judaism, such as rituals, family life and Israel. It was founded by Eugene Borowitz and is edited by Susan Berrin.

  • Southern Jewish Life

    Southern Jewish Life is a news magazine covering Jewish communities in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Northwest Florida. It is based in Birmingham, Ala. Larry Brook is editor.

  • Stark Jewish News

    Stark Jewish News is the official publication of the Canton Jewish Community Federation in Canton, Oh. It is published ten times a year. Karen Phillippi is editor.

  • The Charlotte Jewish News

    The Charlotte Jewish News is a monthly publication for the Jewish community of Charlotte, N.C. It reports on the local Jewish community as well as global news relevant to Judaism.

  • The American Israelite

    The American Israelite is a weekly Jewish newspaper. It is based in Cincinnati, Oh.

  • The Chicago Jewish News

    The Chicago Jewish News is an independent publication for the Chicago Jewish community.

    Contact: 847-966-0606.
  • The Dayton Jewish Observer

    The Dayton Jewish Observer is the official publication of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton. It is based in Dayton, Oh.

  • The Jerusalem Post International Edition

    The Jerusalem Post is an English-language daily newspaper. Liat Collins heads the international edition.

  • The Jewish Advocate

    The Jewish Advocate is the oldest continually-circulated English-language newspaper in the United States. It is based in Boston. J. Michael Whelan is editor.

  • The Jewish Chronicle (London)

    The Jewish Chronicle is the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper. It is based in London and has reporters all around the world. Stephen Pollard is editor.

  • The Jewish Chronicle (Pittsburgh)

    The Jewish Chronicle, based in Pittsburgh, describes itself as “an independent multimedia Jewish news organization serving the Jewish communities of Pittsburgh, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.” Lee Chottiner is executive editor.

  • The Jewish Journal

    The Jewish Journal is an independent Jewish newspaper serving the Jewish community in Massachusetts north of Boston. It is based in Salem, Mass.

    Contact: 978-745-4111.
  • The Jewish Leader

    The Jewish Leader is the official newspaper of the Jewish Federation of Eastern Connecticut. It is based in New London, Conn.

  • The Jewish News

    The Jewish News is a publication for Detroit’s Jewish community. It is based in Southfield, Mich. Jackie Headapohl is managing editor.

  • The Jewish Press

    The Jewish Press is a weekly newspaper geared toward the Orthodox Jewish community. It is based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

    Contact: 718-330-1100.
  • The Jewish Voice & Herald

    The Jewish Voice & Herald is a Jewish publication serving Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. It is based in Providence, R.I. Nancy Kirsch is executive editor.

  • The Jewish Week

    The Jewish Week is a newspaper with five regional editions that cover the Jewish community in the New York City area and around the world. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher.

  • The Jewish World

    The Jewish World publishes global news relevant to Judaism and upcoming events for the  Capital District Jewish community. It is based in Schenectady, N.Y.

    Contact: 518-344-7018 ext. 306.
  • The New Mexico Jewish Link

    The New Mexico Jewish Link is the newsletter of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico. It is based in Albuquerque.

  • The Ohio Jewish Chronicle

    The Ohio Jewish Chronicle is the Jewish community newspaper of Columbus, Oh. It reaches Jews in central Ohio.

  • The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

    The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle is Wisconsin’s only Jewish weekly newspaper. It is based in Milwaukee.

    Contact: 414-390-5888.
  • Tikkun

    Tikkun is a bimonthly magazine that covers politics, culture and society. It is published in Berkeley, Calif., with a progressive Jewish sensibility and is edited by Rabbi Michael Lerner. It maintains a network of Tikkun communities throughout the U.S. that are geared toward progressive social action.

  • Washington Jewish Week

    Washington Jewish Week is a weekly newspaper serving the greater Washington, D.C. Jewish community. It is based in Rockville, Md.

    Contact: 301-230-2222.
  • Westchester Jewish Life

    Westchester Jewish Life is Westchester County, New York’s only Jewish newspaper. It is published by Shoreline Publishing, Inc. in Pelham, N.Y.

  • Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture

    Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture is a print and online magazine that “represents, defines and creates New Jewish Culture … [and] builds a bridge between religious and secular, connects Israeli creativity with the diaspora, and helps to create a vital, inclusive Judaism for the 21st century.” Jo Ellen Green Kaiser is editor in chief. The magazine is based in New York City.

Political Advocacy



  • Beta Israel of North America

    Beta Israel of North America promotes and preserves Ethiopian Jewish history and culture. Beejhy Barhany is founder and director.

  • Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

    Clal, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, is a think tank dedicated to training Jewish leaders and enhancing spiritual and civic involvement in American life. Rabbi Irwin Kula is president.

  • Edah

    Edah is an organization of Modern Orthodox Jews who seek greater openness to the world than does traditional Orthodox Judaism. Edah was founded in 1997 and ceased formal operations in 2006, but its website continues to post useful contacts and information, including a lengthy list of speakers/experts and a library. Rabbi Saul J. Berman is director.

  • Footsteps

    Footsteps helps members of the ultra-Orthodox and Hasidic communities who wish to leave them make the transition to mainstream Jewish life. Lani Santo is executive director.

  • Foundation for Jewish Culture

    The Foundation for Jewish Culture provides grants, awards and other opportunities to individual artists and scholars who it believes will advance Jewish culture and community. At present, the foundation does not have a staffed office.

  • Gateways

    Gateways is a nonprofit organization that works to fight assimilation by connecting Jews to Jewish life, religion and culture. It is based in Monsey, N.Y. Its founder and director is Rabbi Mordechai Suchard.

  • Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life

    The Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss., works to bring educational and rabbinic services to isolated Jews and Jewish communities in a 13-state Southern region. Macy B. Hart is president.

  • Institute for Jewish Spirituality

    The Institute for Jewish Spirituality uses Torah study, prayer, mindfulness meditation, yoga and spiritual direction and retreats to nurture deeper spirituality among rabbis, cantors and lay people. It is based in New York City but now has a Northern California branch. Rabbi Lisa Goldstein, a Reform rabbi, is its executive director in New York.

    Contact: 646-461-6499.
  • JDub Records

    JDub Records is a nonprofit organization that puts together music and cultural events that promote cross-cultural dialogue between Jews and others. Aaron Bisman is president, CEO and co-founder.

  • Jews for Judaism

    Jews for Judaism is an international organization that aims to help Jews strengthen their heritage and counter attempts to convert Jews to other religions. It has branches in several cities, including Baltimore and Los Angeles.

  • Limmud NY

    Limmud NY works to promote Jewish learning and cultural celebration through an annual weekend of events in New York City. Sivie Twersky is its president.

  • Mechon Hadar

    Mechon Hadar works to revitalize community, prayer and study among young Jews. Rabbi Elie Kaunfer is director.

  • Milken Archive of American Jewish Music

    The Milken Archive of American Jewish Music takes as its mission to record and document 350 years of American Jewish music, both religious and secular. Neil Levin is the artistic director. The archive has offices in New York City and Santa Monica, Calif.

  • National Havurah Committee

    The National Havurah Committee is an umbrella organization for havurot, Jewish circles of fellowship, study and prayer. It helps Jews of all denominations and no denomination establish havurot in their areas. It is based in Philadelphia.

    Contact: 215-248-1335.
  • Reboot

    Reboot is a nonprofit organization that seeks to “reboot” Jewish traditions, particularly for young people, through salons across the country, journals, books and films. It is based in New York City.

    Contact: 212-931-0100.
  • offers seminars and Web-based resources on the application of Jewish spiritual practice for spiritual seekers and teachers. Rabbi Goldie Milgram is its founder and executive director. She is the author of Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice: Holy Days and Shabbat.

  • Synagogue 3000

    Synagogue 3000 (S3K) is a national, not-for-profit institute dedicated to revitalizing and re-energizing synagogue life in North America.


  • Hadassah

    Hadassah, the Jewish Zionist women’s organization, sponsors Israel tours mixing education, politics and religion.

  • Jewish Women International

    Jewish Women International advocates for the rights of women and children, including victims of abuse, in the Jewish community. It has offices and chapters around the United States and convenes the National Center on Domestic & Sexual Violence in the Jewish Community. The media contact is Deborah Rosenbloom, JWI chief program officer.

  • Jewish Women’s Archive

    The Jewish Women’s Archive works to chronicle the history of Jewish-American women. It is based in Brookline, Mass. It maintains on online archive, a blog and education guides and produces documentary films. Gail Twersky Reimer is executive director.

    Contact: 617-383-6752.
  • National Council of Jewish Women

    The National Council of Jewish Women is a faith-based nonprofit that works for women’s rights, reproductive freedom and child welfare through offices in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Israel. Linda Slucker is president.

  • Women of Reform Judaism

    Women of Reform Judaism represents more than 75,000 women in the Reform branch of Judaism, providing leadership training to its members as well as financial help for rabbinical students, youth programs and special projects. Its offices are in New York City. Rabbi Marla J. Feldman is executive director.

  • Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

    The Women’s League for Conservative Judaism is the national organization of women members of Conservative synagogues. Its goals are to provide a voice for women in the Conservative movement and to strengthen the Jewish identities of its membership. Rita Wertlieb is president.


  • B’nai B’rith Youth Organization

    The B’nai B’rith Youth Organization is an independent Jewish youth group for high school teenagers. It is no longer associated with B’nai B’rith, from which it split in 2002. Its focus is on developing future Jewish leaders and strengthening the Jewish identity of young Jews. It maintains a directory of chapters throughout North America. Matthew Grossman is executive director.

  • Foundation for Jewish Camp

    The Foundation for Jewish Camp promotes the experience of overnight summer camp among young Jews as a means of building Jewish community and identity. It maintains a directory of Jewish camps across North America. Jeremy J. Fingerman is chief executive officer.

  • Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life

    Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life engages young Jewish students in Jewish life, culture and religion during their college careers. It maintains a state-by-state directory of regional and local Hillel centers. Eric Fingerhut is president.

  • KOACH College Outreach

    KOACH College Outreach is a project of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism that works to keep Jewish college students connected to their faith and culture while on campus. It maintains a list of colleges with a KOACH presence. Rabbi Elyse Winick is director.

  • National Conference of Synagogue Youth

    The National Conference of Synagogue Youth is an organization of the Orthodox Union that focuses on connecting young Jews with their Jewish heritage, culture and religion. It has branches in 15 U.S. cities. Rabbi Micah Greenland is the international director.

  • National Ramah Commission

    The National Ramah Commission oversees the network of Ramah camps around the world. Ramah camps are a project of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. The commission maintains a list of U.S. Ramah camps. Rabbi Mitchell Cohen is national director.

  • North American Federation of (Reform) Temple Youth

    The North American Federation of (Reform) Temple Youth sponsors a summer youth program, NFTY in Israel, and the Eisendrath High School exchange program.

  • Sigma Alpha Rho

    Sigma Alpha Rho is an independent Jewish high school fraternity with chapters throughout the Northeast and Canada. It maintains a directory of chapters. Its top officer is Justin Eric Saylor.

  • United Synagogue Youth

    United Synagogue Youth is a project of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism that works to instill in Jewish youth a sense of Jewish ethics and values and a sense of Zionism. It maintains a regional directory. Rabbi David Levy is director of teen learning.

  • Young Judaea

    Young Judaea is a youth program run by Hadassah with programs to strengthen identity and experience in young Jews. Among its programs are summer camps and trips to Israel. Simon Klarfield is executive director.


  • Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas

    Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas is an entrepreneurial organization that supports, develops and promotes new ideas in the Jewish community in North America. It has provided seed money and support to a range of groups, including those that encourage Jewish stewardship of the environment, promote Jewish heritage, produce Jewish music and engage in cross-cultural dialogue. Aliza Mazor is executive director.

  • Jewish Peace Fellowship

    The Jewish Peace Fellowship is based in Nyack, N.Y. It was begun in 1941 to defend the rights of conscientious objectors.

  • The Society for Humanistic Judaism

    The Society for Humanistic Judaism says it “offers a nontheistic alternative in contemporary Jewish life.” It was organized in Detroit in 1969 and has since added chapters and affiliated congregations around the United States.

Related source guides

Style guide

The practice of ritual washing in a religious rite to cleanse a person of sin or disease, to purify, or to signify humility or service to others. In Christianity, baptism and foot-washing are both forms of ablution. In liturgical churches, ablution can refer to purifying fingers or vessels related to the Eucharist. In Islam, ablution is ritual washing, known as wudu, before prayer. In Judaism, immersion in a mikvah is a form of ablution.
Spirit messengers, both good and evil, accepted in the traditions of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and other religions. They appear in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Quran. Capitalize angel when it precedes a name, such as the Angel Gabriel.
A prejudice against people of Jewish heritage. It has inspired the Holocaust, physical abuse, slander, economic and social discrimination, vandalism and other crimes. Religious anti-Semitism is based on the idea that all Jews are eternally and collectively responsible for killing Jesus (known as deicide). It has been formally renounced by most major churches, led by the Catholic Church. Although Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not make the anti-Semitic claim against Jews because they do not believe that Jesus was crucified. Economic and political anti-Semitism is rooted in widespread 19th- and 20th-century claims that Jews were engaged in a plot to rule the world.
apocalypse, apocalyptic
A final, cosmic battle between forces of good and evil that encompasses the Earth; for religious believers, it ushers in the reign of God and results in the righteous being raised to everlasting life. Apocalyptic thought dates to ancient times and is present in Judaism, Christianity and other belief systems. The New Testament Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel, found in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, are the best-known Scriptures involving apocalyptic prophecies, but other examples exist. Apocalyptic beliefs are most closely associated with Christians who read the Bible literally and with fringe religious movements. Other Christians are more likely to read Revelation as an allegory. Lowercase apocalypse when referring to the battle ending the world, but uppercase when using the traditional Catholic name for the New Testament Book of Revelation, which in Greek means “Apocalypse.” The Catholic News Service advises using the New American Bible name Revelation instead of Apocalypse except in direct quotations.
A special cabinet constructed to house the Torah scrolls containing the Jewish text of the Books of Moses.
Pronounced “osh-ken-AH-zee.” A Jew of German, Polish, Austrian or Eastern European descent. From the Middle Ages through the mid-20th century, Ashkenazic Jews developed a distinct culture and spoke predominantly Yiddish (a combination of German and Hebrew) or Slavic languages. During the 19th and 20th centuries, as they faced increasing persecution in Eastern Europe, many Ashkenazic Jews migrated to Western Europe and the United States. Since the mid-18th century, Ashkenazic Jews have made up the majority of Jews in the U.S. After the Holocaust, their numbers were drastically reduced in Europe. Many of the surviving Ashkenazic Jews immigrated to France, the U.S. and current-day Israel. They are estimated to make up 80 percent of the world’s Jewish population. Ashkenazic Jews are also referred to as Ashkenazim. See Sephardi.
B’nai B’rith
One of the oldest continually operating Jewish service organizations in the world. It was founded in New York City by Henry Jones and 11 others in 1843. The organization is engaged in a wide variety of community service and welfare activities, including promoting human rights, assisting hospitals and victims of natural disasters, and opposing racism and anti-Semitism through its Anti-Defamation League.
bar mitzvah
Means “son of commandment” in Hebrew and Aramaic. A milestone in Judaism in which a person is no longer a child in the eyes of Jewish law and is now responsible for his or her own actions spiritually, ethically and morally. A boy automatically reaches the milestone at age 13, while a girl reaches it at age 12 (bat mitzvah). No ceremony is required to mark the passage, although religious ceremonies and receptions are commonplace.
The elevated part of the sanctuary in a synagogue or temple where the Torah reader stands and the rabbi leads the service.
brit milah or bris
The ritual circumcision of a male Jewish child on the eighth day of his life or of a male convert to Judaism — acts that are considered to continue the covenant God established with the Jewish people. Bris is the Yiddish term; brit, the Hebrew word, is also used. Brit milah literally means “covenant of circumcision” in Hebrew. There are no mandated rituals for newborn girls. However, many honor the custom of the Simchat Bat (pronounced “SIM-hot Bot”), a naming ceremony at home.
In Judaism, a synagogue official who leads the musical part of a service. Capitalize before a name, but lowercase otherwise.
The official organization of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement of Judaism, which is based in Crown Heights, N.Y. Chabad-Lubavitch is a branch of Hasidism, a movement within Orthodox Judaism founded by 18th-century mystics. Chabad emphasizes reaching out to nonpracticing Jews. The term Chabad comes from an acronym of the Hebrew words for wisdom, understanding and knowledge. See Lubavitch.
Conservative Judaism
A branch of Judaism that usually takes a more centrist position on worship and religious behavior than liberal Reform Judaism and the more traditional Orthodox Judaism. It is the second-largest branch of Judaism in the United States, behind Reform Judaism. See Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism.
David, Star of
The six-pointed star that is a symbol of Judaism. The star appears in the center of the Israeli flag. It is sometimes referred to by its Hebrew name, Magen David.
Day of Atonement
See Yom Kippur.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Refers to tens of thousands of fragments of biblical and early Jewish writings that were found in caves in Qumran near the Dead Sea between 1947 and 1956. Scholars dispute their importance but agree they shed light on the culture and beliefs of Judaism between the third century B.C. and the dawn of Christianity in the first century.
Another name for the Ten Commandments, which is the preferred term. See Ten Commandments.
Describes Jews who live outside of the state of Israel. It was first used to describe how Jews were forced to scatter after the Babylonian exile in the 6th century B.C. Do not capitalize unless referring to the Jewish Diaspora.
A book of wisdom in the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament whose author represents himself as King Solomon. Some of its phrases, such as To every thing there is a season, have become part of Western culture.
end times
Lowercase. Generally refers to the time of tribulation preceding the Second Coming of Jesus, though it has parallels and roots in all three Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Sometimes also called the “End of Days.”
Pronounced “AE-roov.” A symbolic enclosure in which observant Orthodox Jews are permitted to perform tasks that would otherwise be forbidden, such as carrying items on the Sabbath and other holy days from one “domain” to another. (The area surrounded by the eruv is considered to be a single “domain.”) Dictated by Jewish law, eruvin (the plural form) are unbroken boundaries rabbis erect by attaching strips of plastic or cloth to public utility poles. They occasionally have been the subject of lawsuits by non-Jews.
The movement, mostly found in conservative Christianity, that purports to change the sexual orientation of people from same-sex attraction to opposite-sex. It is also referred to as reparative or conversion therapy. It is highly controversial. Several major medical associations have rejected such therapy when it views homosexuality as a mental disorder or sickness, or assumes that homosexuals’ sexual orientation is something that must be changed. Ex-gay should never be used without explaining the term and the controversy associated with it. See gay.
In Judaism, anyone who is not a Jew. It is usually a reference to Christians.
Capitalize in reference to all monotheistic religions. Also capitalize such references as God the Father, Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit. However, lowercase personal pronouns, such as him and he. Many Christians consider God to be beyond gender, so be sensitive to the context of the story and avoid gender-defining pronouns when appropriate. Orthodox Jews write G-d to avert the sin of erasing or defacing God’s name. Journalists should respect these Jews’ practice by using G-d in quotes of written material, but otherwise should refer to God.
golden rule
Variations on this precept, which can be succinctly stated as “Treat others as you wish to be treated,” are found in the texts of every major religion, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Pronounced “ha-la-KHAH.” Jewish law, or the set of rules and practices that govern every aspect of life. They are defined by Jewish scripture and teachings. Jews believe that the law was given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai and that it has been interpreted for each generation by respected and learned rabbis.
The Jewish Festival of Lights. It usually falls in early or mid-December. The eight-day holiday celebrates the Maccabees’ victory over the Syrians in the second century B.C. The Maccabees were a first- and second-century B.C. Jewish family that brought about the restoration of Jewish religious and political life. They also made several unsuccessful attempts to overthrow Roman rule in Judea. Hanukkah is the preferred spelling. See Jewish holidays.
A Hebrew term (Haredim in the plural) that literally means “fear” or “anxiety” and is used in the context of a devout believer who “trembles in awe of God.” The label can be applied to strictly observant Orthodox Jews instead of the term ultra-Orthodox, but Haredi is not widely used outside of Israel and Jewish media outlets.
Pronounced “hah-SHEM.” The word some Jews use in the place of the word God, which is considered to be too holy to utter. It literally means “The Name.”
A social and religious movement in Judaism founded in 18th-century Poland. It stresses the importance of devotion in prayer and serving God in ecstasy amid day-to-day life. Hasidic Judaism is usually structured around a “rebbe,” or revered spiritual teacher whose interpretations of Jewish law govern the community. Its followers, called Hasidim, are among the most traditional of U.S. Orthodox Jews. Hasidic is the adjectival form.
The language in which the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, was first written. Its ancient form consists only of consonants, although later scholars added “vowel points” under the letters to aid pronunciation. Jewish children preparing for their bar or bat mitzvahs learn Hebrew so they can read portions of the Torah in the synagogue. Biblical Hebrew differs from modern Hebrew, which is the language of the state of Israel. The term Hebrew is also an outdated way to refer to Jews and should not be used.
High Holy Days
The High Holy Days are the 10-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and ending with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Always capitalize when referring to the murder of 6 million Jews and others during World War II. Lowercase in other uses.
A somewhat archaic English rendering of the four Hebrew letters, usually transliterated as YHWH, that form the name of God. The preferred term of modern scholars is Yahweh. Jews traditionally never pronounce this name, substituting the Hebrew word Adonai, meaning “my Lord,” and they add vowel markings in Hebrew Bibles that literally render the name unpronounceable.
Follower of the Jewish faith. Tradition holds that people are Jewish if their mothers are Jewish or if they have gone through a formal process of conversion, but some Jews argue for a more liberal definition. Many Jews consider themselves “secular Jews” whose connection to Judaism is cultural or ethnic rather than spiritual. Jews believe that God called their ancestor, Abraham, to be the father of their nation, which works toward the goal of establishing a divine kingdom on earth. Use Jew for men and women.
Jewish congregations
Jewish congregations are sometimes called synagogues and sometimes called temples. Many Reform congregations use the latter term, while Orthodox and many Conservative Jews believe the word temple can refer only to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, which they hope will one day be rebuilt in the messianic age. Do not call a Jewish congregation a temple unless it uses that word in its name. Jewish congregations are autonomous, with no hierarchies controlling their activities. The only formal titles used are rabbi for the spiritual leader of a congregation and cantor for the person who leads the congregation in song. Capitalize these titles before a person’s full name on first reference. Use only the last name on second reference. See Judaism.
Jewish holidays
Judaism observes 12 major holidays. Each begins at sunset and extends to nightfall at the end of the holiday. The most commonly celebrated by American Jews are Passover, which takes place in March or April and lasts for eight days; Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in September or October; the Day of Atonement, also called Yom Kippur, in September or October; Sukkot in September or October; Hanukkah, which lasts for eight nights, in November or December; and Purim in February or March. The High Holy Days are the 10-day period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur. Judaism uses a lunar/solar calendar, so the dates of each holiday move each year. The year of the Jewish calendar (for example, 2006 ushered in the year 5767) represents the number of years since creation.
Jews for Jesus
This is a proper name of an organization founded by Jews who converted to evangelical Christianity, but see that faith as a fulfillment of the Jewish hope in the Messiah. The organization is part of a broader group of converts who call themselves “Messianic Jews.” Jews for Jesus are known for proselytizing to Jews. They observe Jewish holidays, speak Hebrew in their services, read from the Torah and refer to Jesus by the Hebrew name Yeshua. They also call their houses of worship “synagogues” and their clergy “rabbis.” Mainstream Jewish groups consider Messianic Judaism deceptive and do not want such converts to call themselves Jews of any kind. Messianic Jews and Jews for Jesus should never be grouped together with mainstream Jews in stories or listings. When reporting on them, clearly state that they are Christian by faith, though Jewish by culture or ethnicity.
The religion of the Jewish people. With its 4,000-year history, it is one of the first recorded monotheistic faiths and one of the oldest religious traditions still practiced today. Its beliefs and history are a major foundation for other Abrahamic religions, including Christianity and Islam. It traces a covenant between the Jewish people and God that began with Abraham and continued through Jacob, Moses, David and others to today’s modern Jews. Jews believe that the Messiah will one day establish a divine kingdom on earth, opening an era of peace and bliss. They believe that God called their ancestor, Abraham, to be the father of their nation, which works toward the goal of establishing this kingdom. Throughout history, Jews have been heavily persecuted. The Holocaust is the most high-profile example. The modern Jewish state of Israel was established in 1948. There are three major branches of Judaism. Reform Jews are the largest branch in the U.S., followed by Conservative and Orthodox Jews. See Reconstructionist Judaism for information on a smaller, fourth branch. Reform Judaism: Reform Jews believe that the spirit of Jewish law can be adapted to time and place, so they tend to emphasize social justice issues more than dietary laws, Sabbath rules and other particulars of traditional Jewish life. They are represented by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, both based in New York City. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, based in Washington, D.C., is the political voice of the movement. Orthodox Judaism: Orthodox Jews practice strict adherence to traditional Jewish laws, including the rules that prohibit work on the Sabbath and kosher dietary laws that prohibit such things as eating pork products or shellfish and eating meat and dairy products together. Some Orthodox Jews might consider themselves “modern Orthodox,” meaning that the men do not keep long beards or wear traditional garb. Most Orthodox congregations are represented nationally by the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and most of its rabbis are members of the Rabbinical Council of America. Conservative Judaism: Conservative Jews follow a middle path between Reform and Orthodox Judaism. Congregations and individuals vary in terms of how observant they are of dietary laws, and though some do not, many drive to synagogue on the Sabbath. They are represented nationally by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Rabbinical Assembly.
Pronounced “KAH-bah.” A large cube-shaped house of worship that Muslims believe was built in Mecca by Abraham and Ishmael. Muslims around the world face the Ka’bah when they pray, and circle it several times as a rite of hajj.
A doctrine of ancient Jewish mysticism that provides a path for humans to achieve an understanding of the divine mysteries of God and the universe. It teaches that such understanding can only be attained by praying and contemplating the hidden meanings of the Hebrew words and letters of the Torah. It had its greatest following in Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries. Preferred spelling is Kabbalah. Uppercase in all references.
In Judaism, refers to ritually pure food prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. Lowercase in all references. Kashrut is the term for Jewish dietary laws, while kosher is the adjective.
Lubavitch, Lubavitcher
One of the largest branches of Hasidic Judaism, it originated in Russia in the 18th century. It was founded by Rabbi Schneur Zalman. In 1940, the Rebbe, or head of the movement, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, emigrated from Poland to America, where he was determined to make the Lubavitch into an American religious movement. Under his successor and son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitch used various forms of American media and institutions, such as schools and camps, to reach out to American Jews the group felt had not been exposed to “authentic” Judaism. Schneerson died in 1994, and a new leader has not been appointed. Lubavitchers still refer to him as “The Rebbe,” while they refer to his father-in-law as “The Previous Rebbe.” Some groups regard Schneerson as the Messiah and await his return, while others believe he could have been the Messiah if God had willed it. Still others believe he never died and is living in a way that ordinary people cannot perceive. The branch is also called Chabad-Lubavitch. Chabad comes from an acronym for the Hebrew words for wisdom, comprehension and knowledge. Lubavitch is the name of the town in Russia where the movement was based for more than a century. See Chabad.
Magen David
See Star of David.
Typically, a seven-stick candelabra used in synagogues. A seven-branched menorah is believed to have been in the original Jerusalem Temple. During Hanukkah, a nine-candle menorah called a “hanukkiah” is used to represent the eight nights of the holiday, with the ninth candle lighting all the others.
messiah, Messiah
A Hebrew term meaning “the anointed one.” For Christians, the one and only Messiah is Jesus Christ. Jews await the coming of the Messiah. Capitalize in religious uses and lowercase in secular cases.
Messianic Jews
See Jews for Jesus.
A ritual bath Jews use for spiritual purification after a woman’s menstrual cycles, in conversion rituals and for men before important holidays. Jewish couples who observe the “laws of family purity” only engage in intercourse between when the woman goes to the mikvah after her menstrual cycle and the beginning of her next period. Contemporary Jews are incorporating the mikvah into new rituals involving major life cycle events, from graduations to divorces to adoptions.
The quorum necessary to recite certain prayers, including the standing prayer called Amidah and the Kaddish prayer for the dead, or to read from the Torah during Shabbat services. Traditionally, a minyan consists of 10 Jewish males over age 13, though many congregations allow any Jewish adult over age 13 to be counted for the minyan.
Modern Orthodox
A movement within Orthodox Judaism that tends to integrate traditional Jewish practices and beliefs with life in the secular world while retaining a distinctive Jewish identity and presence. Modern Orthodox will keep strictly kosher and carefully observe the Sabbath, and they will often wear a yarmulke, or skullcap, for example, but not always. Sen. Joseph Lieberman is a widely known example of a follower of the Modern Orthodox movement. The term “Modern Orthodox” is accepted among Jews, but as with any movement it can encompass a wide spectrum of beliefs and behaviors. So it is advisable to clarify with the subjects of a story where they see themselves within Modern Orthodoxy. See also ultra-Orthodox.
A religion devoted to the worship of a single god. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are known as the world’s three great monotheistic religions.
Used among North American Protestants to describe Christian churches, activities or organizations that are not sponsored by a specific denomination. Some non-Christian groups, including some Jews, use the term as well. It should not be used as a synonym for interfaith, interdenominational or ecumenical. Independent would be an acceptable substitute for nondenominational.
The process of authorizing a person to perform ministry in an official capacity for a specific religious organization, usually Christian or Jewish. Many denominations require formal education and training, and many ordain deacons as well as clergy. Lowercase ordained and ordination in all references.
Orthodox Judaism
The most conservative of the three major branches of Judaism, it strictly adheres to traditional teachings and acceptance of Jewish principles of faith and law. Capitalize in all references. Hasidism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism. See Jewish congregations, Hasidism and Chabad.
A major Jewish holiday commemorating the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses, who was directed by God. The account is found in Exodus, the second book of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament. Passover takes its name from God’s instruction to the Israelites to mark the upper part of their homes’ doors with lamb’s blood so the Angel of Death would “pass over” their homes as he killed the firstborn male of each family in Egypt during the 10th plague. Passover, also called by its Hebrew name Pesach (pronounced “PAY-sakh”), is celebrated in late March or early April and lasts for seven days in Israel, though most outside of Israel celebrate for eight days. On the first two nights of Passover, it is traditional for a Jewish family to gather for a special dinner called a seder in which the story of the Exodus is retold. See seder and Jewish holidays.
One of the ancient fathers of Judaism and Christianity — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, a patriarch is the highest-ranking bishop. Capitalize if used before a name. In the Roman Catholic Church, the patriarch is the bishop of Rome and is called pope. Unlike the pope, who has jurisdiction over all Roman Catholic territories, the authority of Eastern and Oriental patriarchs is more limited. They have a great deal of enforceable jurisdiction in their own territories but no authority over each other’s.
The Greek term for the first five books in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for the same books is Torah.
See Passover.
Someone who speaks divine revelation, or a message they received directly from God. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all have certain figures they formally recognize as prophets. Some traditions, including the Mormons, some charismatic groups and some non-Christian faiths, believe their leaders receive ongoing divine revelation. In much of Christianity, all ordained clergy are considered to have a prophetic role because their job is to proclaim the word of God. Capitalize when used before the name Muhammad to refer to Islam’s final prophet, but otherwise do not capitalize as a title.
The Jewish holiday also called the Feast of Lots, held in February or March. As recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Book of Esther, also called “the Megillah”), it commemorates the deliverance of the Jews by Queen Esther from a massacre plotted by the Persian vizier Haman. Purim is a joyous festival that is celebrated by publicly reading the Megillah, dressing in colorful costumes and regaling the community with “shpiels” (pronounced “sh-PEE-ls”), or humorous Purim plays and skits. See Jewish holidays.
Hebrew word for teacher and the title used by Jewish clergy. On first reference, capitalize before a name. On second reference use only the cleric’s last name.
Reconstructionist Judaism
A 20th-century movement, founded by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, that views Judaism as a social rather than a God-centered phenomenon. Reconstructionists generally do not believe the Hebrew Scriptures are divinely inspired, reject the idea of God as male or female, are less hierarchical and believe that Jewish law as a guiding principle isn’t binding. Reconstructionist rabbis are ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa.
Reform Judaism
The dominant branch of Judaism in the United States. Originated in Germany in the 1700s, Reform Judaism is a more liberal form of Judaism than the Orthodox and Conservative branches. It is rooted in the belief that an individual’s personal autonomy overrides traditional Jewish law and custom. The individual decides which Jewish practices, if any, to adopt. It also believes that both traditional rabbinic modes of study and less traditional ones are valid ways to learn about and from the Hebrew Bible. Reform Judaism also is more accommodating to modern lifestyles and ideas.
revelation, Revelation
In monotheistic religions, revelation is the process through which God reveals or communicates truths about God’s self or will. Uppercase when referring to the final book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation. (Note that Revelation is singular.)
Rosh Hashanah
Pronounced “rohsh-huh-SHAH-nuh.” The Jewish New Year, celebrated according to the Hebrew calendar sometime between the middle of September and the middle of October. See Jewish holidays.
The day of the week observed for rest and worship. Most Christian traditions observe the Sabbath on Sunday. Judaism — along with some Christian traditions such as Seventh-day Adventists — observes the Sabbath on Saturday. (Jews’ observance of the Sabbath begins at sundown Friday.) Capitalize in religious references but lowercase when talking about periods of rest. See Shabbat.
In the Hebrew Bible, Satan is depicted as an angel used by God to test man. In the New Testament, Satan is a fallen angel who is the ultimate evil and enemy of God and man. In Islam, Satan was the head jinn or genie until he angered God by refusing to accept man’s superiority. Uppercase in all references, but always lowercase devil.
The ritualized dinner held in Jewish homes on the first night or first two nights of Passover. The word seder means “order” in Hebrew. It commemorates the Jews’ escape from slavery in Egypt as described in the book of Exodus, and it features special foods and the reading of the Haggadah, a compilation of biblical passages, prayers, hymns and rabbinic literature. See Passover.
Pronounced “suh-FAR-dee.” A Jew of Portuguese, Spanish or North African descent. Originally, Sephardi meant a Jew descended from the Iberian Peninsula, but it has now come to mean Jews who are not Ashkenazim, including Jews from Arab countries and Greece. Sephardic Jews are estimated to make up 20 percent of the world’s Jewish population. The plural form of Sephardi is Sephardim. See Ashkenazi.
Hebrew word for Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Shabbat is observed by lighting candles on Friday night (this is usually done by the woman of the house) and sharing a special family meal. Religious services that include a reading from the Torah happen on Saturday morning, after which families gather for a Shabbat lunch. Shabbat ends with the lighting of a three-wicked “havdalah” candle and the passing around of a fragrant spice box, the scent of which is supposed to carry the peace of Shabbat into the work week. Orthodox Jews refrain from driving, turning lights on or off and a number of other activities that are considered “work” on Shabbat.
Pronounced “shuh-VOO-oat.” The name for the Jewish Feast of Weeks, which commemorates Moses’ receiving of the Ten Commandments. Shavuot falls 49 days after Passover. These days are counted out ritually by Jews in a practice known as “Counting the Omer.” Shavuot occurs in May or June. See Jewish holidays.
Pronounced “shu-MAH.” Considered the most important prayer in Judaism, it consists of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which begins, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.”
The Jewish term for the seven-day period of mourning in which close relatives “sit shiva” after a person’s funeral. During shiva, mourners abstain from work, sex, learning and following other rules. Mourners often sit on low stools or benches to symbolize how they are brought low by grief, and they cover all mirrors in the shiva house to focus on the deceased rather than on their own vanity. The purpose of shiva is to honor the dead and to help the mourner grieve. Others visit a home where someone is sitting shiva.
Shmini Atseret
Jewish holiday celebrated eight days after the beginning of Sukkot. Shmini means “the eighth.”
The Hebrew word for holocaust. The memorial day for those who died in the Holocaust is called Yom Hashoah and takes place in March or April.
A ceremonial ram’s horn sounded on Jewish holidays and special occasions, particularly Rosh Hashanah.
A Yiddish word for a Jewish house of worship. The term is primarily used by Orthodox Jews.
Simchat Torah
Pronounced “SIM-hot TO-rah.” A Jewish holiday marking the completion of the yearlong cycle during which the entire Torah is read.
A small, close-fitting headpiece worn in some religious traditions, particularly by men. Other names for it include yarmulke or kippa (worn by Jews), zucchetto (worn by Roman Catholic prelates) and kufi (worn by Muslims).
Star of David
A six-pointed star that is a symbol of Judaism and of Israel. The Hebrew term for it is Magen David, which translates as “shield of David.”
Pronounced “SOO-koht.” Seven-day Jewish festival commemorating the Israelites’ life as they wandered 40 years in the desert after being liberated from slavery in Egypt. Sukkot is the word for the booths the Israelites lived in. Also called the Feast of the Booths or the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is considered one of the most important Jewish holidays and occurs during September or October. See Jewish holidays.
Jewish place of worship. In Orthodox communities, people live within walking distance of their synagogues.
In Judaism, the extensive written body of interpretation and commentary by scholarly ancient rabbis of the oral law believed to have been given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai. The Talmud is made up of the Mishnah, which is the written version of early Jewish oral law, and the Gemara, which interprets and comments on the Mishnah and other traditional texts. The Talmud constitutes the basis of religious authority in Orthodox Judaism and is distinct from the written law of the Torah.
The technical name for the entire Hebrew Bible. It includes the Torah, the Prophets and the Sacred Writings, organized into 24 books.
A building used for worship or religious purposes. Uppercase when part of a formal name or when referring to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. The word temple is used differently in different religious traditions. It is the place of worship for Hindus, Buddhists and Jews, although Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews believe the only temple is the one destroyed in Jerusalem and so they call their congregational buildings synagogues. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, temples are sacred buildings with restricted access; they differ in purpose from meetinghouses, where weekly worship takes place.
Temple Mount
The area in the old city of Jerusalem that housed ancient Jewish temples. See also Al-Aqsa.
Ten Commandments
The biblical edicts handed to Moses by God atop Mount Sinai. They are the basis of Mosaic law. They are found in Exodus 20:2-17, 34:12-26, and Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Exodus 20 is the most commonly quoted version. The commandments are numbered differently by Jews and by different Christian traditions, including Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic Christians. The different numbering and wording (according to the biblical translation chosen) is one factor that has made public posting of the Ten Commandments controversial.
Tisha B’Av
Pronounced “TI-shah Bav.” Literally, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Jews fast and mourn the destruction of the two ancient Temples.
The Jewish sacred writings found in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). Also called “the Five Books of Moses,” the Torah is copied by specialized scribes onto parchment scrolls and is treated with great care and respect by Jewish congregations. The term Torah is sometimes also used to describe the larger body of Jewish law and Scripture.
Pronounced “TOO-bi She-VOT.” Literally, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat. This Jewish holiday is also called the New Year for Trees.
A term sometimes applied to strictly observant Jews such as the Hasidim who are distinguished by their style of dress, physical appearance and attention to religious ritual. Some Jewish communities described as ultra-Orthodox, such as the Lubavitch Hasidim, find the term offensive. Agudath Israel of America, an umbrella group that includes other Hasidic and many non-Hasidic Orthodox Jews, also objects to the term. Other groups do not. The term is also commonly used to describe right-wing religious parties in Israeli politics. Haredi (or Charedi) is another term sometimes used as an alternative to ultra-Orthodox, though it is not widely known. Haredi is treated under a separate stylebook entry. Be aware that Modern Orthodox is a separate category of Orthodox Judaism, and it is an acceptable term that is also treated under a separate stylebook entry. See also Modern Orthodox.
In Judaism, the anniversary of the death of an immediate family member, marked by the lighting of a yahrzeit candle that burns for 24 hours.
Pronounced “YAH-way.” An English translation of the four Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH that form the name of God. Jews do not attempt to pronounce this name, as they believe that would risk taking the name of God in vain. Wherever it appears in Scripture, they say “the Lord” (“Adonai”) instead, and a vowel marking beneath the four consonants renders the word unpronounceable in Hebrew. Sixteenth-century Protestants attempted to transliterate this word, resulting in “Jehovah.”
Pronounced “YAH-mi-kuh.” Yiddish name for the skullcap traditionally worn by Jewish men in synagogue, and by some Jews at all times. It is a symbol of humility and submission to God. It is sometimes also referred to by its Hebrew name, kippa, which means “dome.”
Yom Hashoah
The Hebrew words for Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and takes place on the 27th day of the month of Nisan in the Jewish calendar. It falls in spring, though the day shifts on the U.S. calendar. The U.S. Congress asked the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which it created in 1980, to lead the nation in civic observances. It is a national memorial day in Israel, and U.S. observances generally take place from the Sunday before to the Sunday after the actual day.
Yom Kippur
Pronounced “yohm ki-POOR.” The Jewish Day of Atonement, which takes place on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishri — September or October of the Gregorian calendar. Yom Kippur is marked by spending the day in prayer; forgoing food, drink and work; and repenting for misdeeds of the past year. See Jewish holidays.
A modern movement in Judaism rooted in the establishment of a separate Jewish nation, based on God’s biblical promise that Israel would forever belong to Abraham and his descendants as a nation. Many Zionists do not have religious motives, but believe a Jewish state is necessary because of the long history of persecution of Jews. That goal was realized with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Zionism refers to Mount Zion, the site of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. A Zionist is a supporter of Zionism.
A supporter of Zionism.